Effects of elevated seawater pCO2 on gene expression patterns in the gills of the green crab, Carcinus maenas

The green crab Carcinus maenas is known for its high acclimation potential to varying environmental abiotic conditions. A high ability for ion and acid-base regulation is mainly based on an efficient regulation apparatus located in gill epithelia. However, at present it is neither known which ion transport proteins play a key role in the acid-base compensation response nor how gill epithelia respond to elevated seawater pCO2 as predicted for the future. In order to promote our understanding of the responses of green crab acid-base regulatory epithelia to high pCO2, Baltic Sea green crabs were exposed to a pCO2 of 400 Pa. Gills were screened for differentially expressed gene transcripts using a 4,462-feature microarray and quantitative real-time PCR.

Crabs responded mainly through fine scale adjustment of gene expression to elevated pCO2. However, 2% of all investigated transcripts were significantly regulated 1.3 to 2.2-fold upon one-week exposure to CO2 stress. Most of the genes known to code for proteins involved in osmo- and acid-base regulation, as well as cellular stress response, were were not impacted by elevated pCO2. However, after one week of exposure, significant changes were detected in a calcium-activated chloride channel, a hyperpolarization activated nucleotide-gated potassium channel, a tetraspanin, and an integrin. Furthermore, a putative syntaxin-binding protein, a protein of the transmembrane 9 superfamily, and a Cl-/HCO3- exchanger of the SLC 4 family were differentially regulated. These genes were also affected in a previously published hypoosmotic acclimation response study.

The moderate, but specific response of C. maenas gill gene expression indicates that (1) seawater acidification does not act as a strong stressor on the cellular level in gill epithelia; (2) the response to hypercapnia is to some degree comparable to a hypoosmotic acclimation response; (3) the specialization of each of the posterior gill arches might go beyond what has been demonstrated up to date; and (4) a re-configuration of gill epithelia might occur in response to hypercapnia.

Fehsenfeld S., Kiko R., Appelhans Y., Towle D. W., Zimmer M., & Melzner F., 2011. Effects of elevated seawater pCO2 on gene expression patterns in the gills of the green crab, Carcinus maenas. BMC Genomics 12:488. Article.

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