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Antioxidant and immune response of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus to different re-suspension patterns of highly polluted marine sediments

Milito, Alfonsina, Murano, Carola, Castellano, Immacolata, Romano, Giovanna, Palumbo, Anna
Marine environmental research 2020 v.160 pp. 104978
Paracentrotus lividus, animals, antioxidant activity, antioxidants, benthic organisms, ecosystems, exposure duration, gene expression, human health, immune response, inflammation, marine sediments, metallothionein, oxidative stress, phagocytes, sediment contamination, storms, stress response, toxic substances, turbulent flow
Marine pollution due to disused industrial activities is a major threat to ecosystems and human health, for example through the effects of re-suspension of toxic substances that are present in contaminated sediments. Here, we examined the effects of different re-suspension patterns of polluted sediments from the site of national interest Bagnoli-Coroglio, on the immune system of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. An indoor experiment was set up exposing sea urchins for 34 days to such sediments and evaluating the effects of two patterns of water turbulence, mimicking natural storms at sea. One group of animals experienced an “aggregated” pattern of turbulence, consisting in two events, each lasting 2 days, separated by only 3 calm days, while a second group experienced two events of turbulence separated by 17 calm days (spaced pattern). At different times from the beginning of the experiment, coelomic fluid was collected from the animals and immune cells were examined for cell count and morphology, oxidative stress variables, and expression of genes involved in metal detoxification, stress response and inflammation. Our results highlighted that the aggregated pattern of turbulence was more noxious for sea urchins. Indeed, their immune system was altered, over the exposure time, as indicated by the increase of red amoebocytes number. Moreover, despite of an increase of the antioxidant power, animals from this group displayed a very significant ROS over-production at the end of the experiment. Conversely, animals in the spaced condition activated a different immune response, mainly having phagocytes as actors, and were able to partially recover from the received stress at the end of the experiment. No changes in the expression of genes related to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses were observed in both groups. By contrast, a down-regulation of various metallothioneins (4, 6, 7 and 8) in the group subjected to aggregated pattern was observed, while metallothionein 8 was up-regulated in the animals from the group exposed to the spaced pattern of turbulence. This work provides the first evidence of how sea urchins can respond to different re-suspension patterns of polluted sediments by modulating their immune system functions. The present data are relevant in relation to the possible environmental restoration of the study site, whose priorities include the assessment of the effects of marine pollution on local organisms, among which P. lividus represents a key benthic species.