Anthropogenic carbon emissions released into the atmosphere is driving rapid, concurrent increases in temperature and acidity across the world’s oceans. Disentangling the interactive effects of warming and acidification on vulnerable life stages is important to our understanding of responses of marine species to climate change. This study evaluates the interactive effects of these stressors on the acute response of gene expression of postlarval American lobster (Homarus americanus), a species whose geographic range is warming and acidifying faster than most of the world’s oceans. In the context of our experiment, we found two especially noteworthy results: First, although physiological end points have consistently been shown to be more responsive to warming in similar experimental designs, our study found gene regulation to be considerably more responsive to elevated pCO2. Furthermore, the combined effect of both stressors on gene regulation was significantly greater than either stressor alone. Using a full factorial experimental design, lobsters were raised in control and elevated pCO2 concentrations (400 ppm and 1,200 ppm) and temperatures (16°C and 19°C). A transcriptome was assembled from an identified 414,517 unique transcripts. Overall, 1,108 transcripts were differentially expressed across treatments, several of which were related to stress response and shell formation. When temperature alone was elevated (19°C), larvae downregulated genes related to cuticle development; when pCO2 alone was elevated (1,200 ppm), larvae upregulated chitinase as well as genes related to stress response and immune function. The joint effects of end‐century stressors (19°C, 1,200 ppm) resulted in the upregulation of those same genes, as well as cellulase, the downregulation of calcified cuticle proteins, and a greater upregulation of genes related to immune response and function. These results indicate that changes in gene expression in larval lobster provide a mechanism to respond to stressors resulting from a rapidly changing environment.
Niemisto M., Fields D. M. Clark K. F., Waller J. D., Greenwood S. J. & Wahle, R. A., 2021. American lobster postlarvae alter gene regulation in response to ocean warming and acidification. Ecology and Evolution 11(2): 806– 819. Article.