Halina Falfushynska, Helen Piontkivska, and Inna M. Sokolova
Hypoxia is a major stressor in estuarine and coastal habitats, leading to adverse effects in aquatic organisms. Estuarine bivalves such as blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) can survive periodic oxygen deficiency but the molecular mechanisms that underlie cellular injury during hypoxia-reoxygenation are not well understood. We examined the molecular markers of autophagy, apoptosis and inflammation during short-term (1 day) and long-term (6 days) hypoxia and post-hypoxic recovery (1 h) in mussels and oysters by measuring the lysosomal membrane stability, activity of a key autophagic enzyme (cathepsin D) and mRNA expression of the genes involved in the cellular survival and inflammation, including caspase 2, 3 and 8, Bcl-2, BAX, TGF-β-activated kinase 1 (TAK1), nuclear factor kappa B1 (NF-B) and NF-B activating kinases IKKα and TBK1. Crassostrea gigas exhibited higher hypoxia tolerance, as well as blunted or delayed inflammatory and apoptotic response to hypoxia and reoxygenation as shown by the later onset and/or the lack of transcriptional activation of caspases, BAX and the inflammatory effector NF-B, compared with M. edulis. Long-term hypoxia resulted in upregulation of Bcl-2 in the oysters and mussels, implying activation of anti-apoptotic mechanisms. Our findings indicate the potential importance of the cell survival pathways in hypoxia tolerance of marine bivalves, and demonstrate the utility of the molecular markers of apoptosis and autophagy for the assessment of sublethal hypoxic stress in bivalve populations.