Fusion and retrotransposition events in the evolution of the sea anemone anemonia viridis neurotoxin genes

Yehu Moran*, Hagar Weinberger, Nimrod Lazarus, Maya Gur, Roy Kahn, Dalia Gordon, Michael Gurevitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Sea anemones are sessile predators that use a variety of toxins to paralyze prey and foe. Among these toxins, Types I, II and III are short peptides that affect voltage-gated sodium channels. Anemonia viridis is the only sea anemone species that produces both Types I and III neurotoxin. Although the two toxin types are unrelated in sequence and three-dimensional structure, cloning and comparative analysis of their loci revealed a highly similar sequence at the 5-region, which encodes a signal peptide. This similarity was likely generated by gene fusion and could be advantageous in transcript stability and intracellular trafficking and secretion. In addition, these analyses identified the processed pseudogenes of the two gene families in the genome of A. viridis, probably resulting from retrotransposition events. As presence of processed pseudogenes in the genome requires transcription in germ-line cells, we analyzed oocyte-rich ovaries and found that indeed they contain Types I and III transcripts. This result raises questions regarding the role of toxin transcripts in these tissues. Overall, the retrotransposition and gene fusion events suggest that the genes of both Types I and III neurotoxins evolved in a similar fashion and share a partial common ancestry.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)115-124
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was supported by the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Grant IS-3928-06 (M.G. and D.G.), and by the Israeli Science Foundation grants 1008/05 (D.G. and M.G.).


  • Anemonia viridis
  • Gene fusion
  • Processed pseudogene
  • Sea anemone neurotoxin


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