Ultraviolet radiation significantly enhances the molecular response to dispersant and sweet crude oil exposure in Nematostella vectensis

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UV radiation
Chemical pollution
Environmental toxicology
RNA sequencing
Estuarine organisms are subjected to combinations of anthropogenic and natural stressors, which together can reduce an organisms' ability to respond to either stress or can potentiate or synergize the cellular impacts for individual stressors. Nematostella vectensis (starlet sea anemone) is a useful model for investigating novel and evolutionarily conserved cellular and molecular responses to environmental stress. Using RNA-seq, we assessed global changes in gene expression in Nematostella in response to dispersant and/or sweet crude oil exposure alone or combined with ultraviolet radiation (UV). A total of 110 transcripts were differentially expressed by dispersant and/or crude oil exposure, primarily dominated by the down-regulation of 74 unique transcripts in the dispersant treatment. In contrast, UV exposure alone or combined with dispersant and/or oil resulted in the differential expression of 1133 transcripts, of which 436 were shared between all four treatment combinations. Most significant was the differential expression of 531 transcripts unique to one or more of the combined UV/chemical exposures. Main categories of genes affected by one or more of the treatments included enzymes involved in xenobiotic metabolism and transport, DNA repair enzymes, and general stress response genes conserved among vertebrates and invertebrates. However, the most interesting observation was the induction of several transcripts indicating de novo synthesis of mycosporine-like amino acids and other novel cellular antioxidants. Together, our data suggest that the toxicity of oil and/or dispersant and the complexity of the molecular response are significantly enhanced by UV exposure, which may co-occur for shallow water species like Nematostella.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2018. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here under a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license granted to WHOI. It is made available for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Environmental Research 134 (2018): 96-108, doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2018.01.002.
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