Copper exposure affects hemocyte apoptosis and Perkinsus marinus infection in eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin).
Dermo disease in the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is caused by an intracellular protistan parasite Perkinsus marinus. The progression and outcome of this disease is determined by a complex interplay between the host's immunity and parasite's escape mechanisms, both of which can be influenced by environmental pollutants including heavy metals such as copper (Cu). The goal of the present study was to determine the effects of Cu on the levels of apoptosis (which can serve as an important host defense mechanism) in oyster immune cells (hemocytes) in vitro and in vivo as well as on the establishment of P. marinus infections in vivo. Surprisingly, Cu exerted opposing effects on apoptosis levels of hemocytes in vitro and in vivo, stimulating apoptosis in isolated hemocytes but suppressing it during Cu exposure of whole oysters. The mechanisms of this effect are presently unknown and may be related to the different bioavailability of the metal in vitro and in vivo. As expected, Cu accumulated in oyster soft tissues during in vitro exposure. Unexpectedly, this metal also strongly accumulated in hemolymph plasma which is classically considered isoionic with the surrounding seawater, likely reflecting the presence of soluble Cu-binding proteins in oyster plasma. Cu reduced growth of P. marinus in vitro and greatly reduced infection levels of hemocytes in vivo, presumably by direct toxic effects on the parasite. As a possible parasitic counterbalance, Cu accumulation in the hemocytes was reduced by P. marinus infection, although this reduction was not sufficient to prevent the parasiticidal effects of the heavy metal in vivo. This effect of Cu may be useful as a potential therapeutic against Dermo disease in aquaculture conditions. Overall, this study provides important new insights into the potential role of environmental metals in host-parasite relationships and disease dynamics in C. virginica.
Foster, B; Grewal, S; Graves, O; Hughes, FM; Sokolova, IM
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