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Embryonic development and skeletogenic gene expression affected by X-rays in the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus

Matranga, Valeria, Zito, Francesca, Costa, Caterina, Bonaventura, Rosa, Giarrusso, Salvatore, Celi, Filippo
Ecotoxicology 2010 v.19 no.3 pp. 530-537
Paracentrotus lividus, X-radiation, abnormal development, biologists, digestive system, ecologists, ecosystems, embryogenesis, emissions, gene expression, genes, in situ hybridization, indicator species, irradiation, marine fisheries, messenger RNA, models, radionuclides, skeleton, stakeholders, toxicity testing, Mediterranean Sea
International concern over environmental nuclear contamination of salt water fisheries and coastal resources has attracted the interests of ecologists, marine biologists and stakeholders. There are not many studies on the effects of X-rays, a component of radionuclides emissions, on embryonic development and gene expression. The sea urchin embryo is emerging as a useful model system for environmental and eco-toxicological studies. Here, we describe how X-rays affect development and gene expression in embryos of the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. Cleavage embryos were exposed to doses from 0.1 to 5 Gy, using an Ag source of X radiation. We found a dose-dependent increase in developmental delays and severe morphological defects in embryos microscopically inspected at two endpoints, 24 and 48 h after irradiation. By analogy with classical toxicity tests parameters we defined the No Observed Effect Dose at 0.1 Gy, the Lowest Observed Effect Dose at 0.5 Gy and ED50 at 1.0 Gy. Major perturbations concerned primitive intestine and skeleton differentiation and development: X-rays exposed embryos had both no gut and arms or poorly and abnormally developed ones. We found a dose-dependent reduction in the mRNA levels of two skeleton-specific genes, Pl-SM30 (spicule matrix 30) and Pl-msp130 (matrix spicule protein 130), as measured by semi-quantitative RT-PCR and whole mount in situ hybridization, respectively. These findings indicate the sea urchin embryo as a sensible bioindicator of X-radiation and propose its use as an alternative model, emphasizing the need for further investigation aimed to protect ecosystem health.