Differential gene expression in response to fungal pathogen exposure in the aquatic invertebrate, Daphnia dentifera

Emily E. Terrill Sondag, Tara E. Stewart Merrill, Jenny Drnevich, Jessica R. Holmes, Eva K. Fischer, Carla E. Cáceres, Lynette R. Strickland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While vertebrate immune systems are appreciated for their complexity and adaptability, invertebrate immunity is often considered to be less complex. However, immune responses in many invertebrates likely involve sophisticated processes. Interactions between the crustacean host Daphnia dentifera and its fungal pathogen Metschnikowia bicuspidata provide an excellent model for exploring the mechanisms underlying crustacean immunity. To explore the genomic basis of immunity in Daphnia, we used RNA-sequencing technology to quantify differential gene expression between individuals of a single host genotype exposed or unexposed to M. bicuspidata over 24 h. Transcriptomic analyses showed that the number of differentially expressed genes between the control (unexposed) and experimental (exposed) groups increased over time. Gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed that differentially expressed genes were enriched for immune-related molecules and processes, such as cuticle development, prostaglandin, and defense response processes. Our findings provide a suite of immunologically relevant genes and suggest the presence of a rapidly upregulated immune response involving the cuticle in Daphnia. Studies involving gene expression responses to pathogen exposure shine a light on the processes occurring during the course of infection. By leveraging knowledge on the genetic basis for immunity, immune mechanisms can be more thoroughly understood to refine our understanding of disease spread within invertebrate populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10354
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Daphnia
  • Metschnikowia
  • RNA-sequencing
  • invertebrate immunity
  • pathogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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