Unique among cnidarians, jellyfish have remarkable morphological and biochemical innovations that allow them to actively hunt in the water column and were some of the first animals to become free-swimming. The class Scyphozoa, or true jellyfish, are characterized by a predominant medusa life-stage consisting of a bell and venomous tentacles used for hunting and defense, as well as using pulsed jet propulsion for mobility. Here, we present the genome of the giant Nomura's jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) to understand the genetic basis of these key innovations.We sequenced the genome and transcriptomes of the bell and tentacles of the giant Nomura's jellyfish as well as transcriptomes across tissues and developmental stages of the Sanderia malayensis jellyfish. Analyses of the Nemopilema and other cnidarian genomes revealed adaptations associated with swimming, marked by codon bias in muscle contraction and expansion of neurotransmitter genes, along with expanded Myosin type II family and venom domains, possibly contributing to jellyfish mobility and active predation. We also identified gene family expansions of Wnt and posterior Hox genes and discovered the important role of retinoic acid signaling in this ancient lineage of metazoans, which together may be related to the unique jellyfish body plan (medusa formation).Taken together, the Nemopilema jellyfish genome and transcriptomes genetically confirm their unique morphological and physiological traits, which may have contributed to the success of jellyfish as early multi-cellular predators.
Journal: BMC biology