Background: Snails belong to the molluscan class Gastropoda, which inhabit land, freshwater and marine environments. Several land snail species, including Theba pisana, are crop pests of major concern, causing extensive damage to agriculture and horticulture. A deeper understanding of their molecular biology is necessary in order to develop methods to manipulate land snail populations.
Results: The present study used in silico gene data mining of T. pisana tissue transcriptomes to predict 24,920 central nervous system (CNS) proteins, 37,661 foot muscle proteins and 40,766 hepatopancreas proteins, which together have 5,236 unique protein functional domains. Neuropeptides, metabolic enzymes and epiphragmin genes dominated expression within the CNS, hepatopancreas and muscle, respectively. Further investigation of the CNS transcriptome demonstrated that it might contain as many as 5,504 genes that encode for proteins destined for extracellular secretion. Neuropeptides form an important class of cell-cell messengers that control or influence various complex metabolic events. A total of 35 full-length neuropeptide genes were abundantly expressed within T. pisana CNS, encoding precursors that release molluscan-type bioactive neuropeptide products. These included achatin, allototropin, conopressin, elevenin, FMRFamide, LFRFamide, LRFNVamide, myomodulins, neurokinin Y, PKYMDT, PXFVamide, sCAPamides and several insulin-like peptides. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry of neural ganglia confirmed the presence of many of these neuropeptides.
Conclusions: Our results provide the most comprehensive picture of the molecular genes and proteins associated with land snail functioning, including the repertoire of neuropeptides that likely play significant roles in neuroendocrine signalling. This information has the potential to expedite the study of molluscan metabolism and potentially stimulate advances in the biological control of land snail pest species.