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Identification of putative expansin-like genes from the pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, and evolution of the expansin gene family within the Nematoda

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We report the cloning and characterisation of genes encoding expansin-like proteins from the pine wood nematodes, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus and B. mucronatus. A small family of genes is present in both species and the Bursaphelenchus genes are most similar to expansins and expansin-like proteins from the potato cyst nematode Globodera rostochiensis and root-knot nematodes. Molecular modelling suggests that the genes could encode a protein with a structure similar to that of functionally characterised expansins. Expression analysis showed that the Bursaphelenchus expansin-like genes are expressed solely in the pharyngeal gland cells, implying a role in the host-parasite interaction, most likely in assisting migration through the plant. Some G. rostochiensis and root-knot nematode expansins are composed of a carbohydrate-binding domain coupled to an expansin domain but no carbohydrate binding domain is present on any of the Bursaphelenchus sequences. We suggest a model for evolution of the expansin gene family within the plant-parasitic nematodes of the Tylenchida and Aphelenchida.

Affiliations: 1: Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8687, Japan; 2: Department of Plant Pathology, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China, ILVO, Burg. Van Gansberghelaan 96, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium; 3: Faculty of Biomedical & Life Sciences, Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK; 4: ILVO, Burg. Van Gansberghelaan 96, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium, Laboratory for Agrozoology, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium; 5: PPP Programme, SCRI, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK, Biology Department, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium;, Email: jjones@scri.ac.uk

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