Identification and expression analysis of two steamer-like retrotransposons in the Chilean blue mussel (Mytilus chilensis)

Gloria Arriagada, Johan Quezada, Nicolas Merino-Veliz, Fernando Avilés, Diana Tapia-Cammas, Jorge Gomez, Daniela Curotto, Juan A. Valdes, Pablo A. Oyarzún, Cristian Gallardo-Escárate, Michael J. Metzger, Marco Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Disseminated neoplasia (DN) is a proliferative cell disorder of the circulatory system of bivalve mollusks. The disease is transmitted between individuals and can also be induced by external chemical agents such as bromodeoxyuridine. In Mya arenaria, we have cloned and characterized an LTR-retrotransposon named Steamer. Steamer mRNA levels and gene copy number correlates with DN and can be used as a marker of the disease. So far, the only mollusk where a retrotransposon expression relates to DN is Mya arenaria. On the other hand, it has been reported that the Chilean blue mussel Mytilus chilensis can also suffers DN. Our aim was to identify retrotransposons in Mytilus chilensis and to study their expression levels in the context of disseminated neoplasia. Results: Here we show that 7.1% of individuals collected in August 2018, from two farming areas, presents morphological characteristics described in DN. Using Steamer sequence to interrogate the transcriptome of M. chilensis we found two putative retrotransposons, named Steamer-like elements (MchSLEs). MchSLEs are present in the genome of M. chilensis and MchSLE1 is indeed an LTR-retrotransposon. Neither expression, nor copy number of the reported MchSLEs correlate with DN status but both are expressed at different levels among individual animals. We also report that in cultured M. chilensis haemocytes MchSLEs1 expression can be induced by bromodeoxyuridine. Conclusions: We conclude that SLEs present in Mytilus chilensis are differentially expressed among individuals and do not correlate with disseminated neoplasia. Treatment of haemocytes with a stressor like bromodeoxyuridine induces expression of MchSLE1 suggesting that in Mytilus chilensis environmental stressors can induce activation of LTR-retrotransposon.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalBiological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusIn preparation - Apr 2024


  • Bivalvia
  • Disseminated neoplasia
  • Retrotransposons
  • Smooth-shelled blue mussels
  • Steamer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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