Candidate genes for shell colour polymorphism in Cepaea nemoralis

Jesse Kerkvliet*, Tjalf de Boer, Menno Schilthuizen, Ken Kraaijeveld

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The characteristic ground colour and banding patterns on shells of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis form a classic study system for genetics and adaptation as it varies widely between individuals. We use RNAseq analysis to identify candidate genes underlying this polymorphism. We sequenced cDNA from the foot and the mantle (the shellproducing tissue) of four individuals of two phenotypes and produced a de novo transcriptome of 147,397 contigs. Differential expression analysis identified a set of 1,961 transcripts that were upregulated in mantle tissue. Sequence variant analysis resulted in a set of 2,592 transcripts with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that differed consistently between the phenotypes. Inspection of the overlap between the differential expression analysis and SNP analysis yielded a set of 197 candidate transcripts, of which 38 were annotated. Four of these transcripts are thought to be involved in production of the shell's nacreous layer. Comparison with morphassociated Restriction-site Associated DNA (RAD)-tags from a published study yielded eight transcripts that were annotated as metallothionein, a protein that is thought to inhibit the production of melanin in melanocytes. These results thus provide an excellent starting point for the elucidation of the genetic regulation of the Cepaea nemoralis shell colour polymorphism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere3715
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2017


    • Candidate genes
    • Colour polymorphism
    • Gastropoda
    • Mollusca
    • Supergene


    Dive into the research topics of 'Candidate genes for shell colour polymorphism in Cepaea nemoralis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this