Short-term acute hypercapnia affects cellular responses to trace metals in the hard clams Mercenaria mercenaria

Estuarine and coastal habitats experience large fluctuations of environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, partial pressure of CO2 (PCO2) and pH; they also serve as the natural sinks for trace metals. Benthic filter-feeding organisms such as bivalves are exposed to the elevated concentrations of metals in estuarine water and sediments that can strongly affect their physiology. The effects of metals on estuarine organisms may be exacerbated by other environmental factors. Thus, a decrease in pH caused by high PCO2 (hypercapnia) can modulate the effects of trace metals by affecting metal bioavailability, accumulation or binding. To better understand the cellular mechanisms of interactions between PCO2 and trace metals in marine bivalves, we exposed isolated mantle cells of the hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) to different levels of PCO2 (0.05, 1.52 and 3.01 kPa) and two major trace metal pollutants – cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu). Elevated PCO2 resulted in a decrease in intracellular pH (pHi) of the isolated mantle cells from 7.8 to 7.4. Elevated PCO2 significantly but differently affected the trace metal accumulation by the cells. Cd uptake was suppressed at elevated PCO2 levels while Cu accumulation has greatly accelerated under hypercapnic conditions. Interestingly, at higher extracellular Cd levels, labile intracellular Cd2+ concentration remained the same, while intracellular levels of free Zn2+ increased suggesting that Cd2+ substitutes bound Zn2+ in these cells. In contrast, Cu exposure did not affect intracellular Zn2+ but led to a profound increase in the intracellular levels of labile Cu2+ and Fe2+. An increase in the extracellular concentrations of Cd and Cu led to the elevated production of reactive oxygen species under the normocapnic conditions (0.05 kPa PCO2); surprisingly, this effect was mitigated in hypercapnia (1.52 and 3.01 kPa). Overall, our data reveal complex and metal-specific interactions between the cellular effects of trace metals and PCO2 in clams and indicate that variations in environmental PCO2 may modulate the biological effects of trace metals in marine organisms.

Ivanina A. V., Beniash E., Etzkorn M., Meyers T. B., Ringwood A. H. & Sokolova I. M., in press. Short-term acute hypercapnia affects cellular responses to trace metals in the hard clams Mercenaria mercenaria. Aquatic Toxicology. Article (subscription required).

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