The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, provides important ecological and economical services, making it the target of restoration projects and supporting a significant fishery aquaculture industry with landings valued at more than $100 million in 2012 in the United States of America. Due to the impact of infectious diseases on wild, restored, and cultured populations, the eastern oyster has been the focus of studies on host–pathogen interactions and immunity, as well as the target of selective breeding efforts for disease resistant oyster lines.
Despite these efforts, relatively little is known about the genetic basis of resistance to diseases or environmental stress, not only in eastern oyster, but also in other molluscan species of commercial interest worldwide. In order to develop tools and resources to assist in the elucidation of the genomic basis of traits of commercial, biological, and ecological interest in oysters, a team of genome and bioinformatics experts, in collaboration with the oyster research community, is sequencing, assembling, and annotating the first reference genome for the eastern oyster and producing an exhaustive transcriptome from a variety of oyster developmental stages and tissues in response to a diverse set of environmentally-relevant stimuli.
These transcriptomes and reference genome for the eastern oyster, added to the already available genome and transcriptomes for the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and other bivalve species, will be an essential resource for the discovery of candidate genes and markers associated with traits of commercial, biological, and ecologic importance in bivalve molluscs, including those related to host–pathogen interactions and immunity.