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1.  Towards Decrypting Cryptobiosis—Analyzing Anhydrobiosis in the Tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum Using Transcriptome Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92663.
Many tardigrade species are capable of anhydrobiosis; however, mechanisms underlying their extreme desiccation resistance remain elusive. This study attempts to quantify the anhydrobiotic transcriptome of the limno-terrestrial tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum.
A prerequisite for differential gene expression analysis was the generation of a reference hybrid transcriptome atlas by assembly of Sanger, 454 and Illumina sequence data. The final assembly yielded 79,064 contigs (>100 bp) after removal of ribosomal RNAs. Around 50% of them could be annotated by SwissProt and NCBI non-redundant protein sequences. Analysis using CEGMA predicted 232 (93.5%) out of the 248 highly conserved eukaryotic genes in the assembly. We used this reference transcriptome for mapping and quantifying the expression of transcripts regulated under anhdydrobiosis in a time-series during dehydration and rehydration. 834 of the transcripts were found to be differentially expressed in a single stage (dehydration/inactive tun/rehydration) and 184 were overlapping in two stages while 74 were differentially expressed in all three stages. We have found interesting patterns of differentially expressed transcripts that are in concordance with a common hypothesis of metabolic shutdown during anhydrobiosis. This included down-regulation of several proteins of the DNA replication and translational machinery and protein degradation. Among others, heat shock proteins Hsp27 and Hsp30c were up-regulated in response to dehydration and rehydration. In addition, we observed up-regulation of ployubiquitin-B upon rehydration together with a higher expression level of several DNA repair proteins during rehydration than in the dehydration stage.
Most of the transcripts identified to be differentially expressed had distinct cellular function. Our data suggest a concerted molecular adaptation in M. tardigradum that permits extreme forms of ametabolic states such as anhydrobiosis. It is temping to surmise that the desiccation tolerance of tradigrades can be achieved by a constitutive cellular protection system, probably in conjunction with other mechanisms such as rehydration-induced cellular repair.
PMCID: PMC3961413  PMID: 24651535
2.  The Aquaporin Channel Repertoire of the Tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum 
Limno-terrestrial tardigrades are small invertebrates that are subjected to periodic drought of their micro-environment. They have evolved to cope with these unfavorable conditions by anhydrobiosis, an ametabolic state of low cellular water. During drying and rehydration, tardigrades go through drastic changes in cellular water content. By our transcriptome sequencing effort of the limno-terrestrial tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum and by a combination of cloning and targeted sequence assembly, we identified transcripts encoding eleven putative aquaporins. Analysis of these sequences proposed 2 classical aquaporins, 8 aquaglyceroporins and a single potentially intracellular unorthodox aquaporin. Using quantitative real-time PCR we analyzed aquaporin transcript expression in the anhydrobiotic context. We have identified additional unorthodox aquaporins in various insect genomes and have identified a novel common conserved structural feature in these proteins. Analysis of the genomic organization of insect aquaporin genes revealed several conserved gene clusters.
PMCID: PMC3666991  PMID: 23761966
unorthodox aquaporin; anhydrobiosis; tardigrade
3.  Filtering duplicate reads from 454 pyrosequencing data 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(7):830-836.
Motivation: Throughout the recent years, 454 pyrosequencing has emerged as an efficient alternative to traditional Sanger sequencing and is widely used in both de novo whole-genome sequencing and metagenomics. Especially the latter application is extremely sensitive to sequencing errors and artificially duplicated reads. Both are common in 454 pyrosequencing and can create a strong bias in the estimation of diversity and composition of a sample. To date, there are several tools that aim to remove both sequencing noise and duplicates. Nevertheless, duplicate removal is often based on nucleotide sequences rather than on the underlying flow values, which contain additional information.
Results: With the novel tool JATAC, we present an approach towards a more accurate duplicate removal by analysing flow values directly. Making use of previous findings on 454 flow data characteristics, we combine read clustering with Bayesian distance measures. Finally, we provide a benchmark with an existing algorithm.
Availability: JATAC is freely available under the General Public License from
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online
PMCID: PMC3605598  PMID: 23376350
4.  Comparative proteome analysis of Milnesium tardigradum in early embryonic state versus adults in active and anhydrobiotic state 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45682.
Tardigrades have fascinated researchers for more than 300 years because of their extraordinary capability to undergo cryptobiosis and survive extreme environmental conditions. However, the survival mechanisms of tardigrades are still poorly understood mainly due to the absence of detailed knowledge about the proteome and genome of these organisms. Our study was intended to provide a basis for the functional characterization of expressed proteins in different states of tardigrades. High-throughput, high-accuracy proteomics in combination with a newly developed tardigrade specific protein database resulted in the identification of more than 3000 proteins in three different states: early embryonic state and adult animals in active and anhydrobiotic state. This comprehensive proteome resource includes protein families such as chaperones, antioxidants, ribosomal proteins, cytoskeletal proteins, transporters, protein channels, nutrient reservoirs, and developmental proteins. A comparative analysis of protein families in the different states was performed by calculating the exponentially modified protein abundance index which classifies proteins in major and minor components. This is the first step to analyzing the proteins involved in early embryonic development, and furthermore proteins which might play an important role in the transition into the anhydrobiotic state.
PMCID: PMC3459984  PMID: 23029181
5.  Integrated pathway modules using time-course metabolic profiles and EST data from Milnesium tardigradum 
BMC Systems Biology  2012;6:72.
Tardigrades are multicellular organisms, resistant to extreme environmental changes such as heat, drought, radiation and freezing. They outlast these conditions in an inactive form (tun) to escape damage to cellular structures and cell death. Tardigrades are apparently able to prevent or repair such damage and are therefore a crucial model organism for stress tolerance. Cultures of the tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum were dehydrated by removing the surrounding water to induce tun formation. During this process and the subsequent rehydration, metabolites were measured in a time series by GC-MS. Additionally expressed sequence tags are available, especially libraries generated from the active and inactive state. The aim of this integrated analysis is to trace changes in tardigrade metabolism and identify pathways responsible for their extreme resistance against physical stress.
In this study we propose a novel integrative approach for the analysis of metabolic networks to identify modules of joint shifts on the transcriptomic and metabolic levels. We derive a tardigrade-specific metabolic network represented as an undirected graph with 3,658 nodes (metabolites) and 4,378 edges (reactions). Time course metabolite profiles are used to score the network nodes showing a significant change over time. The edges are scored according to information on enzymes from the EST data. Using this combined information, we identify a key subnetwork (functional module) of concerted changes in metabolic pathways, specific for de- and rehydration. The module is enriched in reactions showing significant changes in metabolite levels and enzyme abundance during the transition. It resembles the cessation of a measurable metabolism (e.g. glycolysis and amino acid anabolism) during the tun formation, the production of storage metabolites and bioprotectants, such as DNA stabilizers, and the generation of amino acids and cellular components from monosaccharides as carbon and energy source during rehydration.
The functional module identifies relationships among changed metabolites (e.g. spermidine) and reactions and provides first insights into important altered metabolic pathways. With sparse and diverse data available, the presented integrated metabolite network approach is suitable to integrate all existing data and analyse it in a combined manner.
PMCID: PMC3534414  PMID: 22713133
Integrated network analysis; Functional modules; Metabolic profiles; Metabolic pathways; Trend test
6.  Transcriptome Analysis in Tardigrade Species Reveals Specific Molecular Pathways for Stress Adaptations 
Tardigrades have unique stress-adaptations that allow them to survive extremes of cold, heat, radiation and vacuum. To study this, encoded protein clusters and pathways from an ongoing transcriptome study on the tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum were analyzed using bioinformatics tools and compared to expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from Hypsibius dujardini, revealing major pathways involved in resistance against extreme environmental conditions. ESTs are available on the Tardigrade Workbench along with software and databank updates. Our analysis reveals that RNA stability motifs for M. tardigradum are different from typical motifs known from higher animals. M. tardigradum and H. dujardini protein clusters and conserved domains imply metabolic storage pathways for glycogen, glycolipids and specific secondary metabolism as well as stress response pathways (including heat shock proteins, bmh2, and specific repair pathways). Redox-, DNA-, stress- and protein protection pathways complement specific repair capabilities to achieve the strong robustness of M. tardigradum. These pathways are partly conserved in other animals and their manipulation could boost stress adaptation even in human cells. However, the unique combination of resistance and repair pathways make tardigrades and M. tardigradum in particular so highly stress resistant.
PMCID: PMC3342025  PMID: 22563243
RNA; expressed sequence tag; cluster; protein family; adaptation; tardigrada; transcriptome
7.  Transcriptome survey of the anhydrobiotic tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum in comparison with Hypsibius dujardini and Richtersius coronifer 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:168.
The phenomenon of desiccation tolerance, also called anhydrobiosis, involves the ability of an organism to survive the loss of almost all cellular water without sustaining irreversible damage. Although there are several physiological, morphological and ecological studies on tardigrades, only limited DNA sequence information is available. Therefore, we explored the transcriptome in the active and anhydrobiotic state of the tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum which has extraordinary tolerance to desiccation and freezing. In this study, we present the first overview of the transcriptome of M. tardigradum and its response to desiccation and discuss potential parallels to stress responses in other organisms.
We sequenced a total of 9984 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from two cDNA libraries from the eutardigrade M. tardigradum in its active and inactive, anhydrobiotic (tun) stage. Assembly of these ESTs resulted in 3283 putative unique transcripts, whereof ~50% showed significant sequence similarity to known genes. The resulting unigenes were functionally annotated using the Gene Ontology (GO) vocabulary. A GO term enrichment analysis revealed several GOs that were significantly underrepresented in the inactive stage. Furthermore we compared the putative unigenes of M. tardigradum with ESTs from two other eutardigrade species that are available from public sequence databases, namely Richtersius coronifer and Hypsibius dujardini. The processed sequences of the three tardigrade species revealed similar functional content and the M. tardigradum dataset contained additional sequences from tardigrades not present in the other two.
This study describes novel sequence data from the tardigrade M. tardigradum, which significantly contributes to the available tardigrade sequence data and will help to establish this extraordinary tardigrade as a model for studying anhydrobiosis. Functional comparison of active and anhydrobiotic tardigrades revealed a differential distribution of Gene Ontology terms associated with chromatin structure and the translation machinery, which are underrepresented in the inactive animals. These findings imply a widespread metabolic response of the animals on dehydration. The collective tardigrade transcriptome data will serve as a reference for further studies and support the identification and characterization of genes involved in the anhydrobiotic response.
PMCID: PMC2848246  PMID: 20226016

Results 1-7 (7)