A transcriptomic analysis of phenotypic plasticity in Crassostrea virginica larvae under experimental acidification

Graphical abstract

Ocean acidification (OA) is a major threat to marine calcifiers, and little is known regarding acclimation to OA in bivalves. This study combined physiological assays with next-generation sequencing to assess the potential for recovery from and acclimation to OA in the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and identify molecular mechanisms associated with resilience. In a reciprocal transplant experiment, larvae transplanted from elevated pCO(~1400 ppm) to ambient pCO2 (~350 ppm) demonstrated significantly lower mortality and larger size post-transplant than oysters remaining under elevated pCO2 and had similar mortality compared to those remaining in ambient conditions. The recovery after transplantation to ambient conditions demonstrates the ability for larvae to rebound and suggests phenotypic plasticity and acclimation. Transcriptomic analysis supported this hypothesis as genes were differentially regulated under OA stress. Transcriptomic profiles of transplanted and non-transplanted larvae terminating in the same final pCO2 converged, further supporting the idea that acclimation underlies resilience. The functions of differentially expressed genes included cell differentiation, development, biomineralization, ion exchange, and immunity. Results suggest acclimation as a mode of resilience to OA. In addition, the identification of genes associated with resilience can serve as a valuable resource for the aquaculture industry, as these could enable marker-assisted selection of OA-resilient stocks.

Barbosa M., Schwaner C., Pales Espinosa E. & Allam B., 2022. A transcriptomic analysis of phenotypic plasticity in Crassostrea virginica larvae under experimental acidification. Genes 13(9): 1529. doi: 10.3390/genes13091529. Article.

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