Effects of thermal stress and ocean acidification on the expression of the retrotransposon steamer in the softshell Mya arenaria

The softshell Mya arenaria is an ecologically and commercially important bivalve mollusc that develops a fatal cancer known as disseminated neoplasia or hemocyte leukemia. This cancer, like many human cancers, involves the master control gene of apoptosis, p53. This gene is also known to interact with retrotransposons, and a growing body of evidence suggests that p53 actually controls retrotransposon expression and subsequently oncogenesis. The recent description of a retrotransposon (i.e., Steamer) in adult M. arenaria and its potential involvement in the oncogenesis of hemocyte leukemia has been suggested. Juvenile clams, previously shown not to develop hemocyte leukemia, were exposed to climate-related changes in seawater temperature and pH predicted for the year 2100. All juvenile softshells do express the retrotransposon Steamer. When juvenile clams are exposed to predicted climate-related changes in temperature and pH in the Gulf of Maine, it significantly induces Steamer expression, specifically in treatments where clams were exposed to low pH. For juvenile individuals of M. arenaria and potentially other bivalves, Steamer may be a candidate biomarker for exposure to ocean acidification conditions.

Lesser M. P., Thompson M. M. & Walker C. W., 2019. Effects of thermal stress and ocean acidification on the expression of the retrotransposon steamer in the softshell Mya arenaria. Journal of Shellfish Research 38 (3): 535-541. Article (subscription required).

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