DAO 70:129-137 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/dao070129

Branchial lesions associated with abundant apoptotic cells in oysters Ostrea edulis of Galicia (NW Spain)

P. Mirella da Silva1, Antonio Villalba1,*, Inke Sunila2

1Centro de Investigacións Mariñas, Consellería de Pesca e Asuntos Marítimos, Xunta de Galicia, Aptdo. 13, 36620 Vilanova de Arousa, Spain
2State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture, Milford, Connecticut 06460, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: An experiment to evaluate differences in growth, mortality and disease susceptibility among Ostrea edulis stocks was performed. Five families were produced from each of 4 oyster populations (Irish, Greek and 2 Galician). The spat were transferred to a raft in the Ría de Arousa (Galicia, Spain) for grow-out. Monthly samples of each family were histologically processed from 2001 to 2003. One of the pathological conditions discovered by this study was the occurrence of extensive branchial lesions characterized by haemocytic infiltration and loss of branchial architecture. Furthermore, abundant atypical cells occurred among the haemocytes in the lesions in the branchial connective and epithelial tissues, but rarely in the mantle. These cells were contracted in size with nuclei showing chromatin condensation and fragmentation. Some nuclear chromatin aggregated under the nuclear membranes into crescent shapes, whereas others were uniformly dense. Those characteristics suggested that the cells were apoptotic haemocytes, which was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and by a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay using the Apoptag® Kit on paraffin sections. A low prevalence of gill lesions was detected in some, but not all, families of every origin peaking in July 2002 and April 2003. No etiologic agent was identified by either histology or TEM; thus, the cause of the abundance of apoptotic cells remains unclear.


KEY WORDS: Branchial lesions · Apoptosis · TEM · Ostrea edulis · Bivalve


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