Evolution and function of cellulase genes in Australian freshwater crayfish

Crawford, Allison Clare (2006) Evolution and function of cellulase genes in Australian freshwater crayfish. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The most abundant organic compound produced by plants is cellulose, however it has long been accepted that animals do not secrete the hydrolytic enzymes required for its degradation, but rely instead on cellulases produced by symbiotic microbes. The recent discovery of an endogenous cDNA transcript encoding a putative GHF9 endoglucanase in the parastacid crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus (Byrne et al., 1999) suggests that similar cellulase genes may have been inherited by a range of crustacean taxa. In this study, the evolutionary history of the C. quadricarinatus endoglucanase gene and the presence of additional GHF9 genes in other decapod species were investigated. The activity of endoglucanase and endoxylanase enzymes within several cultured decapod species were also compared.

The evolutionary history of the C. quadricarinatus endoglucanase gene was assessed by comparing intron/exon structure with that of other invertebrate and plant GHF9 genes. The coding region of the gene was found to be interrupted by eleven introns ranging in size from 102-902 bp, the position of which was largely conserved in both termite and abalone GHF9 genes. These structural similarities suggest GHF9 genes in crustaceans and other invertebrate taxa share a common ancestry. In addition, two introns were observed to share similar positions in plant GHF9 genes, which indicates this enzyme class may have been present in ancient eukaryote organisms.

The presence of GHF9 genes in C. quadricarinatus and various other decapod species was then explored via degenerate primer PCR. Two distinct GHF9 gene fragments were determined for C. quadricarinatus and several other Cherax and Euastacus parastacid freshwater crayfish species, and a single GHF9 gene fragment was also determined for the palaemonid freshwater prawn Macrobrachium lar. Phylogenetic analyses of these fragments confirmed the presence of two endoglucanase genes within the Parastacidae, termed EG-1 and EG-2. The duplication event that produced these two genes appears to have occurred prior to the evolution of freshwater crayfish. In addition, EG-2 genes appear to have duplicated more recently within the Cherax lineage. The presence of multiple GHF9 endoglucanase enzymes within the digestive tract of some decapod species may enable more efficient processing of cellulose substrates present in dietary plant material.

Endoglucanase and endoxylanase enzyme activities were compared in several parastacid crayfish and penaeid prawn species using dye-linked substrates. Endoglucanase activity levels were higher in crayfish compared with prawn species, which corresponds with the known dietary preferences of these taxa. Endoglucanase temperature and pH profiles were found to be very similar for all species examined, with optimum activity occurring at 60°C and pH 5.0. These results suggest endoglucanase activity in penaeid prawns may also be derived from endogenous sources. Additional in vitro studies further demonstrated crayfish and prawn species liberate comparable amounts of glucose from carboxymethyl-cellulose, which indicates both taxa may utilise cellulose substrates as a source of energy. Endoxylanase temperature and pH profiles were also similar for all crayfish species examined, with optimal activity occurring at 50°C and pH 5.0. These results suggest xylanase activity in crayfish may originate from endogenous enzymes, although it is unclear whether this activity is derived from GHF9 enzymes or a different xylanase enzyme class. In contrast, no endoxylanase activity was detected in the three prawn species examined.

Together, these findings suggest a wide range of decapod crustacean species may possess endogenous GHF9 endoglucanase genes and enzymes. Endoglucanases may be secreted by various decapod species in order to digest soluble or amorphous cellulose substrates present in consumed plant material. Further biochemical studies may confirm the presence and functional attributes of additional endoglucanase genes and enzymes in decapods, which may ultimately assist in the design of optimal plant based crustacean aquaculture feeds.

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ID Code: 16274
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Mather, Peter & Richardson, Neil
Keywords: aquaculture, aquafeed, cellulase, cellulose digestion, cherax, crayfish, crustacean nutrition, decapoda, duplication, endoglucanase, euastacus, eukaryote, evolution, gene structure, GHF9, glucose, intron position, macrobrachium, multigene family, NSP, palaemonidae, parastacidae, penaeus, phylogeny, plant material, protein evolution, structural polysaccharide, xylanase
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Allison Clare Crawford
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:59
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2017 14:40

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