MEPS 398:157-171 (2010)  -  DOI:

Ocean acidification alters skeletogenesis and gene expression in larval sea urchins

Michael J. O’Donnell1,4, Anne E. Todgham2,5, Mary A. Sewell3, LaTisha M. Hammond2, Katya Ruggiero3, Nann A. Fangue2,6, Mackenzie L. Zippay2,7, Gretchen E. Hofmann1,2,*

1Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
2Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
3School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
4Present address: Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, Friday Harbor, Washington 98250, USA
5Present address: Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California 94132, USA
6Present address: Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
7Present address: Medical University of South Carolina, Hollings Marine Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Ocean acidification, the reduction of ocean pH due to the absorption of anthropogenic atmospheric CO2, is expected to influence marine ecosystems through effects on marine calcifying organisms. These effects are not well understood at the community and ecosystem levels, although the consequences are likely to involve range shifts and population declines. A current focus in ocean acidification research is to understand the resilience that organisms possess to withstand such changes, and to extend these investigations beyond calcification, addressing impacts on other vulnerable physiological processes. Using morphometric methods and gene expression profiling with a DNA microarray, we explore the effects of elevated CO2 conditions on Lytechinus pictus echino-plutei, which form a calcium carbonate endoskeleton during pelagic development. Larvae were raised from fertilization to pluteus stage in seawater with elevated CO2. Morphometric analysis showed significant effects of enhanced CO2 on both size and shape of larvae; those grown in a high CO2 environment were smaller and had a more triangular body than those raised in normal CO2 conditions. Gene expression profiling showed that genes central to energy metabolism and biomineralization were down-regulated in the larvae in response to elevated CO2, whereas only a few genes involved in ion regulation and acid-base balance pathways were up-regulated. Taken together, these results suggest that, although larvae are able to form an endoskeleton, development at elevated CO2 levels has consequences for larval physiology as shown by changes in the larval transcriptome.

KEY WORDS: Biomineralization · Skeletogenesis · CO2 · Lytechinus pictus · Microarray · Echinoplutei · Morphometrics · Transcriptomics

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Cite this article as: O’Donnell MJ, Todgham AE, Sewell MA, Hammond LM and others (2010) Ocean acidification alters skeletogenesis and gene expression in larval sea urchins. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 398:157-171.

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