High-resolution picture of a venom gland transcriptome: case study with the marine snail Conus consors

Toxicon. 2012 Jan;59(1):34-46. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Nov 6.


Although cone snail venoms have been intensively investigated in the past few decades, little is known about the whole conopeptide and protein content in venom ducts, especially at the transcriptomic level. If most of the previous studies focusing on a limited number of sequences have contributed to a better understanding of conopeptide superfamilies, they did not give access to a complete panorama of a whole venom duct. Additionally, rare transcripts were usually not identified due to sampling effect. This work presents the data and analysis of a large number of sequences obtained from high throughput 454 sequencing technology using venom ducts of Conus consors, an Indo-Pacific living piscivorous cone snail. A total of 213,561 Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) with an average read length of 218 base pairs (bp) have been obtained. These reads were assembled into 65,536 contiguous DNA sequences (contigs) then into 5039 clusters. The data revealed 11 conopeptide superfamilies representing a total of 53 new isoforms (full length or nearly full-length sequences). Considerable isoform diversity and major differences in transcription level could be noted between superfamilies. A, O and M superfamilies are the most diverse. The A family isoforms account for more than 70% of the conopeptide cocktail (considering all ESTs before clustering step). In addition to traditional superfamilies and families, minor transcripts including both cysteine free and cysteine-rich peptides could be detected, some of them figuring new clades of conopeptides. Finally, several sets of transcripts corresponding to proteins commonly recruited in venom function could be identified for the first time in cone snail venom duct. This work provides one of the first large-scale EST project for a cone snail venom duct using next-generation sequencing, allowing a detailed overview of the venom duct transcripts. This leads to an expanded definition of the overall cone snail venom duct transcriptomic activity, which goes beyond the cysteine-rich conopeptides. For instance, this study enabled to detect proteins involved in common post-translational maturation and folding, and to reveal compounds classically involved in hemolysis and mechanical penetration of the venom into the prey. Further comparison with proteomic and genomic data will lead to a better understanding of conopeptides diversity and the underlying mechanisms involved in conopeptide evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Conotoxins / chemistry
  • Conotoxins / genetics*
  • Conus Snail / metabolism*
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Mollusk Venoms / chemistry*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Transcriptome


  • Conotoxins
  • Mollusk Venoms