MEPS 451:201-212 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09572

Variations of transcript profiles between sea otters Enhydra lutris from Prince William Sound, Alaska, and clinically normal reference otters

A. K. Miles1,*, L. Bowen1,*, B. Ballachey2, J. L. Bodkin2, M. Murray3, J. L. Estes4, R. A. Keister1, J. L. Stott5

1US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Davis Field Station, 1 Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
2US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA
3Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California 93940, USA
4Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
5School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, 1 Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
*Emails: ,
authors contributed equally to this work

ABSTRACT: Development of blood leukocyte gene transcript profiles has the potential to expand condition assessments beyond those currently available to evaluate wildlife health, including sea otters Enhydra lutris, both individually and as populations. The 10 genes targeted in our study represent multiple physiological systems that play a role in immuno-modulation, inflammation, cell protection, tumor suppression, cellular stress-response, xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, and antioxidant enzymes. These genes can be modified by biological, physical, or anthropogenic impacts and consequently provide information on the general type of stressors present in a given environment. We compared gene transcript profiles of sea otters sampled in 2008 among areas within Prince William Sound impacted to varying degrees by the 1989 ‘Exxon Valdez’ oil spill with those of captive and wild reference sea otters. Profiles of sea otters from Prince William Sound showed elevated transcription in genes associated with tumor formation, cell death, organic exposure, inflammation, and viral exposure when compared to the reference sea otter group, indicating possible recent and chronic exposure to organic contaminants. Sea otters from historically designated oiled areas within Prince William Sound 19 yr after the oil spill had higher transcription of genes associated with tumor formation, cell death, heat shock, and inflammation than those from areas designated as less impacted by the spill.


KEY WORDS: Gene transcription · Sea otter · Enhydra lutris · Prince William Sound · Exxon Valdez


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Cite this article as: Miles AK, Bowen L, Ballachey B, Bodkin JL and others (2012) Variations of transcript profiles between sea otters Enhydra lutris from Prince William Sound, Alaska, and clinically normal reference otters. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 451:201-212. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09572

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