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Comparative analysis of the Mercenaria mercenaria genome provides insights into the diversity of transposable elements and immune molecules in bivalve mollusks
Farhat, S.; Bonnivard, E.; Espinosa, E.P.; Tanguy, A.; Boutet, I.; Guiglielmoni, N.; Flot, J.-F.; Allam, B. (2022). Comparative analysis of the Mercenaria mercenaria genome provides insights into the diversity of transposable elements and immune molecules in bivalve mollusks. BMC Genom. 23(1): 192.
In: BMC Genomics. BioMed Central: London. e-ISSN 1471-2164, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Mercenaria mercenaria (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    Hard clam; Genome; Gene duplication; Repeats; Steamer elements

Authors  Top 
  • Farhat, S.
  • Bonnivard, E.
  • Espinosa, E.P.
  • Tanguy, A.
  • Boutet, I.
  • Guiglielmoni, N., more
  • Flot, J.-F., more
  • Allam, B.



    The hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria is a major marine resource along the Atlantic coasts of North America and has been introduced to other continents for resource restoration or aquaculture activities. Significant mortality events have been reported in the species throughout its native range as a result of diseases (microbial infections, leukemia) and acute environmental stress. In this context, the characterization of the hard clam genome can provide highly needed resources to enable basic (e.g., oncogenesis and cancer transmission, adaptation biology) and applied (clam stock enhancement, genomic selection) sciences.


    Using a combination of long and short-read sequencing technologies, a 1.86 Gb chromosome-level assembly of the clam genome was generated. The assembly was scaffolded into 19 chromosomes, with an N50 of 83 Mb. Genome annotation yielded 34,728 predicted protein-coding genes, markedly more than the few other members of the Venerida sequenced so far, with coding regions representing only 2% of the assembly. Indeed, more than half of the genome is composed of repeated elements, including transposable elements. Major chromosome rearrangements were detected between this assembly and another recent assembly derived from a genetically segregated clam stock. Comparative analysis of the clam genome allowed the identification of a marked diversification in immune-related proteins, particularly extensive tandem duplications and expansions in tumor necrosis factors (TNFs) and C1q domain-containing proteins, some of which were previously shown to play a role in clam interactions with infectious microbes. The study also generated a comparative repertoire highlighting the diversity and, in some instances, the specificity of LTR-retrotransposons elements, particularly Steamer elements in bivalves.


    The diversity of immune molecules in M. mercenaria may allow this species to cope with varying and complex microbial and environmental landscapes. The repertoire of transposable elements identified in this study, particularly Steamer elements, should be a prime target for the investigation of cancer cell development and transmission among bivalve mollusks.

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