Ecotoxicology and environmental safety

Hypoxia-modulated gene expression profiling in sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus nudus) immune cells.

PMID 25164204


Hypoxia is an issue that affects ocean coastal waters worldwide. It has severe consequences for marine organisms, including death and rapid adaptive changes in metabolic organization. Although some aquatic animals are routinely exposed and resistant to severe environmental hypoxia, others such as sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus nudus) have a limited capacity to withstand this stress. In this study, hypoxia induced a significant increase in the number of red spherule cells among coelomocytes, which function as immune cells. This suggests that sea urchin immune cells could be used as a biological indicator of hypoxic stress. In the current study, we used cDNA microarrays to investigate the differential expression patterns of hypoxia-regulated genes to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the response of immune cells to hypoxia. Surprisingly, the predominant major effect of hypoxia was the widespread suppression of gene expression. In particular, the expression of RNA helicase and GATA-4/5/6 was decreased significantly in response to hypoxia, even in field conditions, suggesting that they could be utilized as sensitive bioindicators of hypoxic stress in the sea urchin.