Single molecule, full-length transcript sequencing provides insight into the extreme metabolism of ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris
Hummingbirds oxidize ingested nectar sugars directly to fuel foraging but cannot sustain this fuel use during fasting periods, such as during the night or during long-distance migratory flights. Instead, fasting hummingbirds switch to oxidizing stored lipids, derived from ingested sugars. The hummingbird liver plays a key role in moderating energy homeostasis and this remarkable capacity for fuel switching. Additionally, liver is the principle location of de novo lipogenesis, which can occur at exceptionally high rates, such as during premigratory fattening. Yet understanding how this tissue and whole organism moderates energy turnover is hampered by a lack of information regarding how relevant enzymes differ in sequence, expression, and regulation. We generated a de novo transcriptome of the hummingbird liver using PacBio full-length cDNA sequencing (Iso-Seq), yielding a total of 8.6Gb of sequencing data, or 2.6M reads from 4 different size fractions. We analyzed data using the SMRTAnalysis v3.1 Iso-Seq pipeline, then clustered isoforms into gene families to generate de novo gene contigs using Cogent. We performed orthology analysis to identify closely related sequences between our transcriptome and other avian and human gene sets. Finally, we closely examined homology of critical lipid metabolism genes between our transcriptome data and avian and human genomes. We confirmed high levels of sequence divergence within hummingbird lipogenic enzymes, suggesting a high probability of adaptive divergent function in the hepatic lipogenic pathways. Our results leverage cutting-edge technology and a novel bioinformatics pipeline to provide a first direct look at the transcriptome of this incredible organism.