The complex NOD-like receptor repertoire of the coral Acropora digitifera includes novel domain combinations

Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Jan;30(1):167-76. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss213. Epub 2012 Aug 30.


Innate immunity in corals is of special interest not only in the context of self-defense but also in relation to the establishment and collapse of their obligate symbiosis with dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium. In innate immunity system of vertebrates, approximately 20 tripartite nucleotide oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor proteins that are defined by the presence of a NAIP, CIIA, HET-E and TP1 (NACHT) domain, a C-terminal leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain, and one of three types of N-terminal effector domain, are known to function as the primary intracellular pattern recognition molecules. Surveying the coral genome revealed not only a larger number of NACHT- and related domain nucleotide-binding adaptor shared by APAF-1, R proteins, and CED-4 (NB-ARC)-encoding loci (~500) than in other metazoans but also surprising diversity of domain combinations among the coral NACHT/NB-ARC-containing proteins; N-terminal effector domains included the apoptosis-related domains caspase recruitment domain (CARD), death effector domain (DED), and Death, and C-terminal repeat domains included LRRs, tetratricopeptide repeats, ankyrin repeats, and WD40 repeats. Many of the predicted coral proteins that contain a NACHT/NB-ARC domain also contain a glycosyl transferase group 1 domain, a novel domain combination first found in metazoans. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the NACHT/NB-ARC domain inventories of various metazoan lineages, including corals, are largely products of lineage-specific expansions. Many of the NACHT/NB-ARC loci are organized in pairs or triplets in the Acropora genome, suggesting that the large coral NACHT/NB-ARC repertoire has been generated at least in part by tandem duplication. In addition, shuffling of N-terminal effector domains may have occurred after expansions of specific NACHT/NB-ARC-repeat domain types. These results illustrate the extraordinary complexity of the innate immune repertoire of corals, which may in part reflect adaptive evolution to a symbiotic lifestyle in a uniquely complex and challenging environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / genetics*
  • Anthozoa / immunology
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins / genetics*
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins