The increased expression of an engrailed gene to sustain shell formation in response to ocean acidification

Engrailed is a transcription factor required in numerous species for important developmental steps such as neurogenesis, segment formation, preblastoderm organization, and compartment formation. Recent study has proved that engrailed is also a key gene related to shell formation in marine bivalves. In the present study, the expression pattern of an engrailed gene (Cgengrailed-1) in Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas under CO2-driven acidification was investigated to understand its possible role in the regulation of shell formation and adaptation to ocean acidification (OA). The open reading frame (ORF) of Cgengrailed-1 was obtained, which was of 690 bp encoding a polypeptide of 229 amino acids with a HOX domain. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the deduced amino acid sequence of Cgengrailed-1 shared high homology with other engraileds from Drosophila melanogasterMizuhopecten yessoensi, and Crassostrea virginica. The mRNA transcripts of Cgengrailed-1 were constitutively expressed in various tissues with the highest expression levels detected in labial palp and mantle, which were 86.83-fold (p < 0.05) and 75.87-fold (p < 0.05) higher than that in hepatopancreas. The mRNA expression of Cgengrailed-1 in mantle decreased dramatically after moderate (pH 7.8) and severe (pH 7.4) acidification treatment (0.75- and 0.15-fold of that in control group, p < 0.05). The results of immunofluorescence assay demonstrated that the expression level of Cgengrailed-1 in the middle fold of mantle increased significantly upon moderate and severe acidification treatment. Moreover, after the oyster larvae received acidification treatment at trochophore stage, the mRNA expression levels of Cgengrailed-1 increased significantly in D-shape larvae stages, which was 3.11- (pH 7.8) and 4.39-fold (pH 7.4) of that in control group (p < 0.05). The whole-mount immunofluorescence assay showed that Cgengrailed-1 was mainly expressed on the margin of shell gland, and the periostracum in trochophore, early D-shape larvae and D-shape larvae in both control and acidification treatment groups, and the intensity of positive signals in early D-shape larvae and D-shape larvae increased dramatically under acidification treatment. These results collectively suggested that the expression of Cgengrailed-1 could be triggered by CO2-driven acidification treatment, which might contribute to induce the initial shell formation in oyster larvae and the formation of periostracum in adult oyster to adapt to the acidifying marine environment.

Zhang Y., Liu Z., Zong Y., Zheng Y., Li Y., Han Z., Wang L. & Song L., 2020. The increased expression of an engrailed gene to sustain shell formation in response to ocean acidification. Frontiers in Physiology 11: 1569. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.530435. Article.

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