Genetically Modified Annelids: Platynerieis dumerilii. Not Unlike Modifying Insects

The bristle worm, Platynerieis dumerilii, is a marine annelid with a biology that makes it of interest because of the development of its nervous system, reproductive cycles that are synchronized with lunar phases and its neuroendocrinology among other things.

Even with a generation time of 3-4 months a number of genetic technologies have been adapted for use in this species.

Zantke et al (2014) and Backfisch et al. (2014) review the genetic and genomic tools available for this marine annelid.

While the tools available are not extensive, they include the ability to create transgenics, systems for using programmable endonucleases such as TALENs, ZFN (zinc finger nucleases) and CRISPRs, and silencing technologies using RNAi and morpholinos.

The transgenic technologies available for P. dumerilii illustrate the unpredictability of the efficacy of existing DNA transposon-based vector systems. For example, a hobo/Ac/Tam-like element, Tol2, is functional and seems to be highly active in the soma of P. dumerilii but germline transgenic are not recovered and this is thought to be most likely due to silencing during germline transmission. Alternatively, the Tc1/mariner-like element Mos1 can be used to generate stable transgenic lines of P. dumerilii and apparently does not suffer from Tol2-like silencing.

Platynereis dumerilii larva

Platynereis dumerilii larva

For insect biologists the experiences of P. dumerilii workers are worth keeping in mind when contemplating the development of transgenic systems. While there are numerous DNA-transposon-based gene vectors available for insects from a number of different transposon families, including hobo/Ac/Tam1 and Tc1/mariner, their behavior in ‘your insect’ may differ from their behavior reported in other insect or non-insect systems. The design of any strategy to develop a transgenic system based on DNA-transposons should be designed to accommodate these uncertainties.

So, despite difficult biology, in some respects, and a relatively small research community, determined efforts to develop genetic technologies can prove fruitful and a small but useful toolkit can be assembled.

Genetic and genomic tools for the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii.
Zantke J, Bannister S, Rajan VB, Raible F, Tessmar-Raible K.
Genetics. 2014 May;197(1):19-31. doi: 10.1534/genetics.112.148254.

Tools for Gene-Regulatory Analyses in the Marine Annelid Platynereis dumerilii
Benjamin Backfisch, Vitaly V. Kozin, Stephan Kirchmaier, Kristin Tessmar-Raible, Florian Raible PLoS ONE April 08, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.009307



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