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Tipping points of gastric pH regulation and energetics in the sea urchin larva exposed to CO2 -induced seawater acidification

Lee, Hae-Gyeong, Stumpp, Meike, Yan, Jia-Jiun, Tseng, Yung-Che, Heinzel, Sebastian, Hu, Marian Yong-An
Comparative biochemistry and physiology 2019 v.234 pp. 87-97
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, acclimation, acidification, acute exposure, alkalinization, carbon dioxide, early development, energy, epigenetics, genes, genomic islands, homeostasis, larvae, metabolism, methylation, midgut, ocean acidification, pH, rearing, transporters
Sea urchin larvae reduce developmental rates accompanied by changes in their energy budget when exposed to acidified conditions. The necessity to maintain highly alkaline conditions in their digestive systems led to the hypothesis that gastric pH homeostasis is a key trait affecting larval energy budgets leading to distinct tipping points for growth and survival.To test this hypothesis, sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) larvae were reared for 10 days in different pH conditions ranging from pH 7.0 to pH 8.2. Survival, development and growth rates were determined demonstrating severe impacts < pH 7.2. To test the effects of pH on midgut alkalization we measured midgut pH and monitored the expression of acid-base transporters. While larvae were able to maintain their midgut pH at 8.9-9.1 up to an acidification level of pH 7.2, midgut pH was decreased in the lower pH treatments. The maintenance of midgut pH under low pH conditions was accompanied by dynamic changes in the expression level of midgut acid-base transporters. Metabolic rates of the larvae increased with decreasing pH and reached a threshold between pH 7.0 and pH 7.3 where metabolic rates decreased again. Methylation analyses on promoter CpG islands were performed for midgut acid-base transporter genes to test for possible epigenetic modifications after 10-day exposure to different pH conditions. This analysis demonstrated no correlation between methylation level and pH treatments suggesting low potential for epigenetic modification of acid-base transporters upon short-term exposure. Since a clear tipping point was identified at pH 7.2, which is much lower than near-future ocean acidification (OA) scenarios, this study suggests that the early development of the purple sea urchin larva has a comparatively high tolerance to seawater acidification with substantial acclimation capacity and plasticity in a key physiological trait under near-future OA conditions.