Shifting balance of protein synthesis and degradation sets a threshold for larval growth under environmental stress

Exogenous environmental factors alter growth rates, yet information remains scant on the biochemical mechanisms and energy trade-offs that underlie variability in the growth of marine invertebrates. Here we study the biochemical bases for differential growth and energy utilization (as adenosine triphosphate [ATP] equivalents) during larval growth of the bivalve Crassostrea gigas exposed to increasing levels of experimental ocean acidification (control, middle, and high pCO2, corresponding to ∼400, ∼800, and ∼1100 µatm, respectively). Elevated pCO2 hindered larval ability to accrete both shell and whole-body protein content. This negative impact was not due to an inability to synthesize protein per se, because size-specific rates of protein synthesis were upregulated at both middle and high pCO2 treatments by as much as 45% relative to control pCO2. Rather, protein degradation rates increased with increasing pCO2. At control pCO2, 89% of cellular energy (ATP equivalents) utilization was accounted for by just 2 processes in larvae, with protein synthesis accounting for 66% and sodium-potassium transport accounting for 23%. The energetic demand necessitated by elevated protein synthesis rates could be accommodated either by reallocating available energy from within the existing ATP pool or by increasing the production of total ATP. The former strategy was observed at middle pCO2, while the latter strategy was observed at high pCO2. Increased pCO2 also altered sodium-potassium transport, but with minimal impact on rates of ATP utilization relative to the impact observed for protein synthesis. Quantifying the actual energy costs and trade-offs for maintaining physiological homeostasis in response to stress will help to reveal the mechanisms of resilience thresholds to environmental change.

Frieder C. A., Applebaum S. L., Francis Pan T.-C. & Manahan D. T., 2018. Shifting balance of protein synthesis and degradation sets a threshold for larval growth under environmental stress. The Biological Bulletin. Article (subscription required).

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