© 2019 The Author(s). The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, forms reefs that provide critical services to the surrounding ecosystem. These reefs are at risk from climate change, in part because altered rainfall patterns may amplify local fluctuations in salinity, impacting oyster recruitment, survival, and growth. As in other marine organisms, warming water temperatures might interact with these changes in salinity to synergistically influence oyster physiology. In this study, we used comparative transcriptomics, measurements of physiology, and a field assessment to investigate what phenotypic changes C. virginica uses to cope with combined temperature and salinity stress in the Gulf of Mexico. Oysters from a historically low salinity site (Sister Lake, LA) were exposed to fully crossed temperature (20°C and 30°C) and salinity (25, 15, and 7 PSU) treatments. Using comparative transcriptomics on oyster gill tissue, we identified a greater number of genes that were differentially expressed (DE) in response to low salinity at warmer temperatures. Functional enrichment analysis showed low overlap between genes DE in response to thermal stress compared with hypoosmotic stress and identified enrichment for gene ontologies associated with cell adhesion, transmembrane transport, and microtubule-based process. Experiments also showed that oysters changed their physiology at elevated temperatures and lowered salinity, with significantly increased respiration rates between 20°C and 30°C. However, despite the higher energetic demands, oysters did not increase their feeding rate. To investigate transcriptional differences between populations in situ, we collected gill tissue from three locations and two time points across the Louisiana Gulf coast and used quantitative PCR to measure the expression levels of seven target genes. We found an upregulation of genes that function in osmolyte transport, oxidative stress mediation, apoptosis, and protein synthesis at our low salinity site and sampling time point. In summary, oysters altered their phenotype more in response to low salinity at higher temperatures as evidenced by a higher number of DE genes during laboratory exposure, increased respiration (higher energetic demands), and in situ differential expression by season and location. These synergistic effects of hypoosmotic stress and increased temperature suggest that climate change will exacerbate the negative effects of low salinity exposure on eastern oysters.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Jones, H., Johnson, K., & Kelly, M. (2019). Synergistic Effects of Temperature and Salinity on the Gene Expression and Physiology of Crassostrea virginica. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 59 (2), 306-319. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icz035