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1.  Expression profiling and cross-species RNA interference (RNAi) of desiccation-induced transcripts in the anhydrobiotic nematode Aphelenchus avenae 
Some organisms can survive extreme desiccation by entering a state of suspended animation known as anhydrobiosis. The free-living mycophagous nematode Aphelenchus avenae can be induced to enter anhydrobiosis by pre-exposure to moderate reductions in relative humidity (RH) prior to extreme desiccation. This preconditioning phase is thought to allow modification of the transcriptome by activation of genes required for desiccation tolerance.
To identify such genes, a panel of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) enriched for sequences upregulated in A. avenae during preconditioning was created. A subset of 30 genes with significant matches in databases, together with a number of apparently novel sequences, were chosen for further study. Several of the recognisable genes are associated with water stress, encoding, for example, two new hydrophilic proteins related to the late embryogenesis abundant (LEA) protein family. Expression studies confirmed EST panel members to be upregulated by evaporative water loss, and the majority of genes was also induced by osmotic stress and cold, but rather fewer by heat. We attempted to use RNA interference (RNAi) to demonstrate the importance of this gene set for anhydrobiosis, but found A. avenae to be recalcitrant with the techniques used. Instead, therefore, we developed a cross-species RNAi procedure using A. avenae sequences in another anhydrobiotic nematode, Panagrolaimus superbus, which is amenable to gene silencing. Of 20 A. avenae ESTs screened, a significant reduction in survival of desiccation in treated P. superbus populations was observed with two sequences, one of which was novel, while the other encoded a glutathione peroxidase. To confirm a role for glutathione peroxidases in anhydrobiosis, RNAi with cognate sequences from P. superbus was performed and was also shown to reduce desiccation tolerance in this species.
This study has identified and characterised the expression profiles of members of the anhydrobiotic gene set in A. avenae. It also demonstrates the potential of RNAi for the analysis of anhydrobiosis and provides the first genetic data to underline the importance of effective antioxidant systems in metazoan desiccation tolerance.
PMCID: PMC2825203  PMID: 20085654
2.  Systemic RNAi mediated gene silencing in the anhydrobiotic nematode Panagrolaimus superbus 
Gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful tool for functional genomics. Although RNAi was first described in Caenorhabditis elegans, several nematode species are unable to mount an RNAi response when exposed to exogenous double stranded RNA (dsRNA). These include the satellite model organisms Pristionchus pacificus and Oscheius tipulae. Available data also suggest that the RNAi pathway targeting exogenous dsRNA may not be fully functional in some animal parasitic nematodes. The genus Panagrolaimus contains bacterial feeding nematodes which occupy a diversity of niches ranging from polar, temperate and semi-arid soils to terrestrial mosses. Thus many Panagrolaimus species are adapted to tolerate freezing and desiccation and are excellent systems to study the molecular basis of environmental stress tolerance. We investigated whether Panagrolaimus is susceptible to RNAi to determine whether this nematode could be used in large scale RNAi studies in functional genomics.
We studied two species: Panagrolaimus sp. PS1159 and Panagrolaimus superbus. Both nematode species displayed embryonic lethal RNAi phenotypes following ingestion of Escherichia coli expressing dsRNA for the C. elegans embryonic lethal genes Ce-lmn-1 and Ce-ran-4. Embryonic lethal RNAi phenotypes were also obtained in both species upon ingestion of dsRNA for the Panagrolaimus genes ef1b and rps-2. Single nematode RT-PCR showed that a significant reduction in mRNA transcript levels occurred for the target ef1b and rps-2 genes in RNAi treated Panagrolaimus sp. 1159 nematodes. Visible RNAi phenotypes were also observed when P. superbus was exposed to dsRNA for structural genes encoding contractile proteins. All RNAi phenotypes were highly penetrant, particularly in P. superbus.
This demonstration that Panagrolaimus is amenable to RNAi by feeding will allow the development of high throughput methods of RNAi screening for P. superbus. This greatly enhances the utility of this nematode as a model system for the study of the molecular biology of anhydrobiosis and cryobiosis and as a possible satellite model nematode for comparative and functional genomics. Our data also identify another nematode infraorder which is amenable to RNAi and provide additional information on the diversity of RNAi phenotypes in nematodes.
PMCID: PMC2453295  PMID: 18565215

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