Nuclear receptors are a superfamily of transcription factors important in key biological, developmental and reproductive processes. Several of these receptors are ligand- activated and through their ability to bind endogenous and exogenous ligands, are potentially vulnerable to xenobiotics. Molluscs are key ecological species in defining aquatic and terrestrial habitats and are sensitive to xenobiotic compounds in the environment. However, the understanding of nuclear receptor presence, function and xenobiotic disruption in the phylum Mollusca is limited.
Here, forty-three nuclear receptor sequences were mined from the genome of the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. They include members of NR0-NR5 subfamilies, notably lacking any NR6 members. Phylogenetic analyses of the oyster nuclear receptors have been conducted showing the presence of a large novel subfamily group not previously reported, which is named NR1P. Homologues to all previous identified nuclear receptors in other mollusc species have also been determined including the putative heterodimer partner retinoid X receptor, estrogen receptor and estrogen related receptor.
C. gigas contains a highly diverse set of nuclear receptors including a novel NR1 group, which provides important information on presence and evolution of this transcription factor superfamily in invertebrates. The Pacific oyster possesses two members of NR3, the sex steroid hormone receptor analogues, of which there are 9 in humans. This provides increasing evidence that steroid ligand specific expansion of this family is deuterostome specific. This new knowledge on divergence and emergence of nuclear receptors in C. gigas provides essential information for studying regulation of molluscan gene expression and the potential effects of xenobiotics.