Influencing mechanism of ocean acidification on byssus performance in the pearl oyster Pinctada fucata

The byssus is an important adhesive structure by which bivalves robustly adhere to underwater substrates. It is susceptible to carbon dioxide-driven ocean acidification (OA). Previous investigations have documented significant adverse effects of OA on the performance of byssal threads, but the mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, multiple approaches were employed to reveal the underlying mechanisms for the effects of OA on byssus production and mechanical properties in the pearl oyster Pinctada fucata. The results showed that OA altered the abundance and secondary structure of byssal proteins and affected the contents of metal ions in distal threads, which together reduced the byssus diameter and amplified byssus nanocavity, causing reductions in mechanical properties (strength and extensibility). Expression analysis of key foot protein genes further confirmed changes in byssal protein abundance. Moreover, comparative transcriptome analysis revealed enrichment of ion transportation- and apoptosis-related categories, up-regulation of apoptosis-related pathways and down-regulation of the “extracellular matrix-receptor interaction” pathway, which may influence foot locomotion physiology, leading to a decrease in byssus production. This study provides mechanistic insight into the effects of OA on pearl oyster byssus, which should broaden our overall understanding of the impacts of OA on marine ecosystem.

Li S., Liu C., Zhan A., Xie L. & Zhang R., in press. Influencing mechanism of ocean acidification on byssus performance in the pearl oyster Pinctada fucata. Environmental Science and Technology. Article (subscription required).

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