Impaired antioxidant defenses and DNA damage in the European glass eel (Anguilla anguilla) exposed to ocean warming and acidification

Highlights

  • European glass eels were lab-exposed to future warming and acidification conditions
  • Selected biomarkers were used to study physiological responses of glass eels
  • The antioxidant enzymatic machinery was impaired in the muscle and viscera
  • Heat shock response was different between tissues, increasing with temperature
  • The results emphasize the higher vulnerability of eels under climate change

Abstract

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has attracted scientific inquiry for centuries due to its singular biological traits. Within the European Union, glass eel fisheries have declined sharply since 1980, from up to 2000 t (t) to 62.2 t in 2018, placing wild populations under higher risk of extinction. Among the major causes of glass eels collapse, climate change has become a growing worldwide issue, specifically ocean warming and acidification, but, to our knowledge, data on physiological and biochemical responses of glass eels to these stressors is limited. Within this context, we selected some representative biomarkers [e.g. glutathione peroxidase (GPx), catalase (CAT), total antioxidant capacity (TAC), heat shock proteins (HSP70), ubiquitin (Ub) and DNA damage] to study physiological responses of the European glass eel under distinct laboratory-climate change scenarios, such as increased water temperature (+ 4 °C) and pH reduction (− 0.4 units), for 12 weeks. Overall, the antioxidant enzymatic machinery was impaired, both in the muscle and viscera, manifested by significant changes in CAT, GPx and TAC. Heat shock response varied differently between tissues, increasing with temperature in the muscle, but not in the viscera, and decreasing in both tissues under acidification. The inability of HSP to maintain functional protein conformation was responsible for boosting the production of Ub, particularly under warming and acidification, as sole stressors. The overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), either elicited by warming – due to increased metabolic demand – or acidification – through H+ interaction with O2, generating H2O2 – overwhelmed defense mechanisms, causing oxidative stress and consequently leading to protein and DNA damage. Our results emphasize the vulnerability of eels’ early life stages to climate change, with potential cascading consequences to adult stocks.

Lopes A. R., Figueiredo C., Sampaio E., Diniz M., Rosa R. & Grilo T. F., in press. Impaired antioxidant defenses and DNA damage in the European glass eel (Anguilla anguilla) exposed to ocean warming and acidification. Science of The Total Environment. Article.

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