Steroid metabolism in cnidarians: insights from Nematostella vectensis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cnidarians occupy a key evolutionary position as a sister group to bilaterian animals. While cnidarians contain a diverse complement of steroids, sterols, and other lipid metabolites, relatively little is known of the endogenous steroid metabolism or function in cnidarian tissues. Incubations of cnidarian tissues with steroid substrates have indicated the presence of steroid metabolizing enzymes, particularly enzymes with 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17beta-HSD) activity. Through analysis of the genome of the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, we identified a suite of genes in the short chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) superfamily including homologs of genes that metabolize steroids in other animals. A more detailed analysis of Hsd17b4 revealed complex evolutionary relationships, apparent intron loss in several taxa, and predominantly adult expression in N. vectensis. Due to its ease of culture and available molecular tools N. vectensis is an excellent model for investigation of cnidarian steroid metabolism and gene function.

publication date

  • March 25, 2009