Characterisation of defensins across the marsupial family tree

Type: Journal Article

Reference: Peel, E., Hogg, C. and Belov, K., 2024. Characterisation of defensins across the marsupial family tree. Developmental & Comparative Immunology, p.105207.


Defensins are antimicrobial peptides involved in innate immunity, and gene number differs amongst eutherian mammals. Few studies have investigated defensins in marsupials, despite their potential involvement in immunological protection of altricial young. Here we use recently sequenced marsupial genomes and transcriptomes to annotate defensins in nine species across the marsupial family tree. We characterised 35 alpha and 286 beta defensins; gene number differed between species, although Dasyuromorphs had the largest repertoire. Defensins were encoded in three gene clusters within the genome, syntenic to eutherians, and were expressed in the pouch and mammary gland. Marsupial beta defensins were closely related to eutherians, however marsupial alpha defensins were more divergent. We identified marsupial orthologs of human DEFB3 and 6, and several marsupial-specific beta defensin lineages which may have novel functions. Marsupial predicted mature peptides were highly variable in length and sequence composition. We propose candidate peptides for future testing to elucidate the function of marsupial defensins.