Metal accumulation and differentially expressed proteins in gill of oyster (Crassostrea hongkongensis) exposed to long-term heavy metal-contaminated estuary

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Bio-accumulation and bio-transmission of toxic metals and the toxicological responses of organisms exposed to toxic metals have been focused, due to heavy metal contaminations have critically threatened the ecosystem and food security. However, still few investigations focused on the responses of certain organisms exposed to the long term and severe heavy metal contamination in specific environments. In present investigation, the Hong Kong oyster, Crassostrea hongkongensis were obtained from 3 sites which were contaminated by different concentrations of heavy metals (such as zinc, copper, manganese and lead etc.), respectively. Heavy metal concentrations in the sea water samples collected from the 3 sites and the dissected tissues of the oysters with blue visceral mass were determinated to estimate the metal contamination levels in environments and the bio-accumulation ratios of the heavy metals in the different tissues of oysters. Moreover, Proteomic methods were employed to analyze the differentially expressed proteins in the gills of oysters exposed to long-term heavy metal contaminations. Results indicated that the Jiulong River estuary has been severely contaminated by Cu, Zn and slightly with Cr, Ni, Mn, etc, moreover, Zn and Cu were the major metals accumulated by oysters to phenomenally high concentrations (more than 3.0% of Zn and about 2.0% of Cu against what the dry weight of tissues were accumulated), and Cr, Ni, Mn, etc were also significantly accumulated. The differentially expressed proteins in the gills of oysters exposed to heavy metals participate in several cell processes, such as metal binding, transporting and saving, oxidative-reduction balance maintaining, stress response, signal transduction, etc. Significantly up-regulated expression (about 10 folds) of an important metal binding protein, metallothionein (MT) and granular cells was observed in the gills of oysters exposed to long-term and severely heavy-metal-contaminated estuary, it suggested that binding toxic metals with metallothionein-like proteins (MTLP) and storing toxic metals in metal-rich granules (MRG) with insoluble forms were the important strategies of oyster to detoxify the toxic metals and adapt to the high level of metal-contaminated environment. Most of the stress and immunity responsive proteins, such as heat shock proteins (HSP), extracellular superoxide dismutase (ECSOD) and cavortin, and the cellular redox reaction relative proteins such as 20G-Fe (II) oxygenase family oxidoreductase, aldehyde dehydrogenase and retinal dehydrogenase 2, were detected significantly down-regulated in the gills of oysters exposed to long term heavy metal contaminated environments, it indicated that long term exposure different from emergent exposure to heavy metal contamination may significantly suppress the stress and immunity response system of oysters. Moreover, Formin homology 2 domain containing protein (FH2). The only protein domain to directly nucleate actin monomers into unbranched filament polymers, by which will subsequently control gene expression and chromatin remodelling complexes, was also detected greatly up-regulated in the gills of oysters exposed to long-term heavy metal contaminations. It indicated that nuclear activity regulation may also be important for oyster to adapt to the long-term heavy-metal-contaminated environment.

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