Barnacle settlement involves sensing of a variety of exogenous cues. A pair of antennules is the main sensory organ that the cyprid larva uses to explore the surface. Antennules are equipped with a number of setae that have both chemo- and mechanosensing function. The current study explores the repertoire of sensory receptors in Balanus improvisus cyprid antennules with the goal to better understand sensory systems involved in the settling behavior of this species. We carried out transcriptome sequencing of dissected B. improvisus cyprid antennules. The generated transcriptome assembly was used to search for sensory receptors using HMM models. Among potential chemosensory genes, we identified the ionotropic receptors IR25a, IR8a and IR93a, and several divergent IR candidates to be expressed in the cyprid antennules. We found one gustatory-like receptor but no odorant receptors, chemosensory or odorant-binding proteins. Apart from chemosensory receptors, we also identified 13 potential mechanosensory genes represented by several transient receptor potential channels (TRP) subfamilies. Furthermore, we analyzed changes in expression profiles of IRs and TRPs during the B. improvisus settling process. Several of the sensory genes were differentially expressed during the course of larval settlement. This study gives expanded knowledge about the sensory systems present in barnacles, a taxonomic group for which only limited information about receptors is currently available. It furthermore serves as a starting point for more in depth studies of how sensory signaling affects settling behavior in barnacles with implications for preventing biofouling.
Journal: PloS one