The transcriptional response of the Pacific oysterCrassostrea gigasagainst acute heat stress

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The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, has evolved sophisticated mechanisms to adapt the changing ambient conditions, and protect themselves from stress-induced injuries. In the present study, the expression profiles of mRNA transcripts in the haemocytes of oysters under heat stress were examined to reveal the possible mechanism of heat stress response. There were 23,315, 23,904, 23,123 and 23,672 transcripts identified in the haemocytes of oysters cultured at 25 °C for 0, 6, 12, and 24 h (designed as B, H6, H12, H24), respectively. And 22,330 differentially expressed transcripts (DTs) were yielded in the pairwise comparisons between the above four samples, which corresponded to 8074 genes. There were 9, 12 and 22 Gene Ontology (GO) terms identified in the DT pairwise comparison groups of H6_B, H12_H6 and H24_H12, respectively, and the richest GO terms in biological process category were cellular catabolic process, translational initiation and apoptotic process, respectively. There were 108, 102 and 102 KEGG pathways successfully retrieved from DTs comparison groups DTH6_B, DTH12_H6 and DTH24_H12, respectively, among which 93 pathways were shared by all three comparison groups, and most of them were related to metabolism of protein, carbohydrate and fat. The expression patterns of 12 representative heat stress response-relevant genes detected by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) were similar to those obtained from transcriptome analysis. By flow cytometric analysis, the apoptosis rate of haemocytes increased significantly after oysters were treated at 25 °C for 24 h and recovered at 4 °C for 12 h (p < 0.05) and 36 h (p < 0.01), and it also increased significantly when the heat treatment lasted to 60 h (p < 0.01). The present results indicated that, when oysters encountered short term heat stress, the expression of genes related to energy metabolism, as well as unfolded protein response (UPR) and anti-apoptotic system, were firstly regulated to maintain basic life activities, and then a large number of genes involved in stabilizing protein conformation and facilitating further protein refolding were activated to repair the stress injury. However, the stress injury gradually became irreparable with the stress persisting, and apoptosis was activated when the heat treatment prolonged to 24 h. The information was useful to better understand the molecular mechanism of heat stress response and develop strategies for the improvement of oyster survival rate during summer high-temperature period.HighlightsOver 23,120 transcripts were identified and 8074 differentially expressed genes were yielded in the pairwise comparisons.The top three GO terms were cellular catabolic process, regulation of protein metabolic process and apoptotic process.About 40.68% KEGG retrieved pathways were related to metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat.The gene expression and haemocytes apoptosis induced by heat stress were confirmed by qRT-PCR and flow cytometric analysis.

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