Transcriptome analysis of the response of Burmese python to digestion

Gigascience. 2017 Aug 1;6(8):1-18. doi: 10.1093/gigascience/gix057.


Exceptional and extreme feeding behaviour makes the Burmese python (Python bivittatus) an interesting model to study physiological remodelling and metabolic adaptation in response to refeeding after prolonged starvation. In this study, we used transcriptome sequencing of 5 visceral organs during fasting as well as 24 hours and 48 hours after ingestion of a large meal to unravel the postprandial changes in Burmese pythons. We first used the pooled data to perform a de novo assembly of the transcriptome and supplemented this with a proteomic survey of enzymes in the plasma and gastric fluid. We constructed a high-quality transcriptome with 34 423 transcripts, of which 19 713 (57%) were annotated. Among highly expressed genes (fragments per kilo base per million sequenced reads > 100 in 1 tissue), we found that the transition from fasting to digestion was associated with differential expression of 43 genes in the heart, 206 genes in the liver, 114 genes in the stomach, 89 genes in the pancreas, and 158 genes in the intestine. We interrogated the function of these genes to test previous hypotheses on the response to feeding. We also used the transcriptome to identify 314 secreted proteins in the gastric fluid of the python. Digestion was associated with an upregulation of genes related to metabolic processes, and translational changes therefore appear to support the postprandial rise in metabolism. We identify stomach-related proteins from a digesting individual and demonstrate that the sensitivity of modern liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry equipment allows the identification of gastric juice proteins that are present during digestion.

Keywords: Burmese python; digestion; pathway; proteome; tissue expression; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Boidae / physiology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Digestion / genetics*
  • Gastric Juice / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling* / methods
  • Gene Ontology
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Postprandial Period
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Proteome
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Transcriptome*
  • Workflow


  • Proteome