Comparative Genomics of Non-Model Invertebrates

IGNITE researchers explore actinoporin-like proteins in the phylum Porifera

A recent IGNITE article published in the Marine Drugs journal provides evidence that a diverse array of Porifera represents a novel source of actinoporin-like proteins. While their ecological role in sponges remains to be determined, the aforementioned qualities encourage the exploration of these proteins for the biotechnological applications which have been proposed for anthozoan actinoporins. 

Actinoporins are proteinaceous toxins known for their ability to bind to and create pores in cellular membranes. This quality has generated interest in their potential use as new tools, such as therapeutic immunotoxins. Isolated historically from sea anemones, genes encoding for similar actinoporin-like proteins have since been found in a small number of other animal phyla. Sequencing and de novo assembly of Irish Haliclona transcriptomes indicated that sponges also possess similar genes. An exhaustive analysis of publicly available sequencing data from other sponges showed that this is a potentially widespread feature of the Porifera. While many sponge proteins possess a sequence similarity of 27.70–59.06% to actinoporins, they show consistency in predicted structure. One gene copy from H. indistincta has significant sequence similarity to sea anemone actinoporins and possesses conserved residues associated with the fundamental roles of sphingomyelin recognition, membrane attachment, oligomerization, and pore formation, indicating that it may be an actinoporin. Phylogenetic analyses indicate frequent gene duplication, no distinct clade for sponge-derived proteins, and a stronger signal towards actinoporins than similar proteins from other phyla.


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