Background: White spot syndrome (WSS) is a viral disease that affects most of the commercially important shrimps and causes serious economic losses to the shrimp farming industry worldwide. However, little information is available in terms of the molecular mechanisms of the host-virus interaction. In this study, we used an expressed sequence tag (EST) approach to observe global gene expression changes in white spot syndrome virus (WSSV)-infected postlarvae of Penaeus monodon. Results: Sequencing of the complementary DNA clones of two libraries constructed from normal and WSSV-infected postlarvae produced a total of 15,981 high-quality ESTs. Of these ESTs, 46% were successfully matched against annotated genes in National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) non-redundant (nr) database and 44% were functionally classified using the Gene Ontology (GO) scheme. Comparative EST analyses suggested that, in postlarval shrimp, WSSV infection strongly modulates the gene expression patterns in several organs or tissues, including the hepatopancreas, muscle, eyestalk and cuticle. Our data suggest that several basic cellular metabolic processes are likely to be affected, including oxidative phosphorylation, protein synthesis, the glycolytic pathway, and calcium ion balance. A group of immune-related chitin-binding protein genes is also likely to be strongly up regulated after WSSV infection. A database containing all the sequence data and analysis results is accessible at http://xbio.lifescience.ntu.edu.tw/pm/ Conclusion: This study suggests that WSSV infection modulates expression of various kinds of genes. The predicted gene expression pattern changes not only reflect the possible responses of shrimp to the virus infection but also suggest how WSSV subverts cellular functions for virus multiplication. In addition, the ESTs reported in this study provide a rich source for identification of novel genes in shrimp.
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