DAO 56:163-170 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao056163

Apoptosis in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica

Inke Sunila1,*, Jill LaBanca2

1State of Connecticut, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture, PO Box 97, Milford, Connecticut 06460, USA
2Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, Connecticut 06430, USA

ABSTRACT: Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, has been reported as being pivotal in infectious diseases of different organisms. The effects of apoptosis on the progression and transmission of the protistan parasites Perkinsus marinus and Haplosporidium nelsoni in the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica were studied. Oysters were diagnosed for their respective infections by standard methods, and apoptosis was detected using in situ hybridization to detect DNA fragments by end labeling on paraffin sections. A digoxigenin nucleotide probe was used to label the 200 bp fragment produced by apoptosis and detected immunohistochemically using an antidigoxigenin peroxidase conjugate. The probe/DNA fragment complex was stained with a peroxidase substrate and tissues were counter-stained with methyl green. Uninfected oysters had large numbers of apoptotic hemocytes present in the connective tissue underlying the stomach, gill, and mantle epithelia, whereas oysters infected with P. marinus had a reduced number of apoptotic hemocytes. The parasite may prevent hemocyte apoptosis in order to yield a greater number of hemocytes in which to house itself. Large numbers of P. marinus cells in some infected oysters were eliminated via apoptosis in the stomach epithelia, disabling the spread of infectious particles through seawater. The oysters infected with H. nelsoni also had reduced numbers of apoptotic hemocytes, while part of the vesicular connective tissue cells were apoptotic. H. nelsoni plasmodia were eliminated via apoptosis in some oysters. Apoptosis may enhance progression and prevent transmission of infectious oyster diseases.

KEY WORDS: Apoptosis · Haplosporidium nelsoni · Perkinsus marinus · In situ hybridization

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