The Myt-OME Project: Development of a health assessment tool for marine mussels.
The British Columbia (BC) coastline is under increasing pressure from competing coastal zone utilization (e.g. urbanization, recreation and aquaculture) and potential climate change impacts, highlighting the need for effective diagnostic tools of coastal ecosystem health and function. For cultured and wild shellfish a variety of environmental, biological and human factors have been identified that could have significant effects on these populations. To date, detailed studies on the effects of these factors are limited, due in part to a lack of appropriate tools. Within this program we are developing genomic information and tools for studying marine mussels (Mytilus spp.). In addition to being important in Canadian shellfish aquaculture, mussels are also widely used bioindicator species of ecosystem health. Libraries will be generated from mussels exposed to a variety of stressing agents, producing sequence information in the form of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and identifying genes involved in environmental stress responses. From these libraries a cDNA microarray will also be developed for use in gene expression analysis, to examine the nature and magnitude of the stress response to these agents. Over the long term, these resources will be important for researchers and aquaculture managers interested in developing and improving mussel culture, as well as those utilizing mussels for assessments of coastal environmental health.
Project in collaboration with Dr. Stewart Johnson of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
This project is funded by
Myt-omics: Examination of factors responsible for seasonal mortality syndromes of mussels in BC waters
The BC coastline is under increasing pressure from competing coastal zone utilization (e.g. urbanization, recreation and aquaculture) and potential climate change impacts, highlighting the need for effective diagnostic tools of coastal ecosystem health and function. One of the major problems in assessing shellfish health is how to determine the organism’s response to multiple stressing agents in the natural environment such as temperature, salinity, oxygen levels and diet as well as to anthropogenic effects such as xenobiotic pollution and aquaculture husbandry methods. Unexplained shellfish mortalities in four major BC aquaculture companies accounted for $6 million in lost sales in 2007 alone. It is likely that the complex interaction of these factors is responsible for the mass mortality events seen, although it is not known to what extent each factor contributes and what combinations result in fatalities.
Marine mussels (Mytilus spp) are dominant members of coastal and estuarine communities and are established worldwide keystone bioindicator species and aquaculture organisms. Within this project we will develop genomic information and tools for use in the study of Mytilus spp. We will use these tools to examine the stress responses of Mytilus spp. with the goal of understanding the causes of seasonal mortality. An understanding of the factors responsible for significant mortality events can be used by the shellfish industry to development management practices to reduce their losses. In addition genomic information and tools developed within this program will be available for use by other research groups.
Significant mass mortality events in mussels are occurring in BC, affecting the economic sustainability and expansion of the shellfish industry. As worldwide aquaculture species and as bioindicators of pollution, previous Mytilus research has involved suites of biochemical, histological and physiological biomarkers, which are laborious and provide limited information on the whole animal response. It is widely accepted that the application of genomic techniques will significantly increase our understanding of the biology of mussels including how they respond to stressful conditions within their environment.
At present sequence information for mussels is limited to 34,017 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) in GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). We will significantly increase the amount of genomic information for Mytilus spp. by sequencing an additional 24,000 cDNAs from a variety of cDNA libraries designed to identify genes involved in the stress response. These libraries as well as existing cDNA libraries obtained from international collaborators will be used to produce a 5,000 probe Myt-OME microarray that will be suitable for the study of aquaculture species of Mytilus found in BC waters and will be validated for wild mussel populations of M. trossulus.
Once developed and validated, we will use this microarray to investigate causes of large-scale mortality within the BC mussel industry. Understanding the factor/factors responsible for these mortalities will enable the development of improved management plans for BC mussel production. In addition the tools developed within this program will be made available to other groups conducting aquaculture and environmental research using mussels.
This project is part funded by
under the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)