Genomic organization, molecular diversification, and evolution of antimicrobial peptide myticin-C genes in the mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis)

PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e24041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024041. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


Myticin-C is a highly variable antimicrobial peptide associated to immune response in Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis). In this study, we tried to ascertain the genetic organization and the mechanisms underlying myticin-C variation and evolution of this gene family. We took advantage of the large intron size variation to find out the number of myticin-C genes. Using fragment analysis a maximum of four alleles was detected per individual at both introns in a large mussel sample suggesting a minimum of two myticin-C genes. The transmission pattern of size variants in two full-sib families was also used to ascertain the number of myticin-C genes underlying the variability observed. Results in both families were in accordance with two myticin-C genes organized in tandem. A more detailed analysis of myticin-C variation was carried out by sequencing a large sample of complementary (cDNA) and genomic DNA (gDNA) in 10 individuals. Two basic sequences were detected at most individuals and several sequences were constituted by combination of two different basic sequences, strongly suggesting somatic recombination or gene conversion. Slight within-basic sequence variation detected in all individuals was attributed to somatic mutation. Such mutations were more frequently at the C-terminal domain and mostly determined non-synonymous substitutions. The mature peptide domain showed the highest variation both in the whole cDNA and in the basic-sequence samples, which is in accordance with the pathogen recognition function associated to this domain. Although most tests suggested neutrality for myticin-C variation, evidence indicated positive selection in the mature peptide and C-terminal region. Three main highly supported clusters were observed when reconstructing phylogeny on basic sequences, meiotic recombination playing a relevant role on myticin-C evolution. This study demonstrates that mechanisms to generate molecular variation similar to that observed in vertebrates are also operating in molluscs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / classification
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics*
  • Blood Proteins / classification
  • Blood Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Frequency / genetics
  • Mytilus / genetics*
  • Mytilus / metabolism*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Blood Proteins
  • DNA, Complementary
  • myticin