Repurposed Transcriptomic Data Facilitate Discovery of Innate Immunity Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) Genes Across Lophotrochozoa

Biol Bull. 2014 Oct;227(2):201-9. doi: 10.1086/BBLv227n2p201.


The growing volume of genomic data from across life represents opportunities for deriving valuable biological information from data that were initially collected for another purpose. Here, we use transcriptomes collected for phylogenomic studies to search for toll-like receptor (TLR) genes in poorly sampled lophotrochozoan clades (Annelida, Mollusca, Brachiopoda, Phoronida, and Entoprocta) and one ecdysozoan clade (Priapulida). TLR genes are involved in innate immunity across animals by recognizing potential microbial infection. They have an extracellular leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain connected to a transmembrane domain and an intracellular toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) domain. Consequently, these genes are important in initiating a signaling pathway to trigger defense. We found at least one TLR ortholog in all but two taxa examined, suggesting that a broad array of lophotrochozoans may have innate immune systems similar to those observed in vertebrates and arthropods. Comparison to the SMART database confirmed the presence of both the LRR and the TIR protein motifs characteristic of TLR genes. Because we looked at only one transcriptome per species, discovery of TLR genes was limited for most taxa. However, several TRL-like genes that vary in the number and placement of LRR domains were found in phoronids. Additionally, several contigs contained LRR domains but lacked TIR domains, suggesting they were not TLRs. Many of these LRR-containing contigs had other domains (e.g., immunoglobin) and are likely involved in innate immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Invertebrates / genetics*
  • Invertebrates / immunology*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics*
  • Transcriptome*


  • Toll-Like Receptors