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Molecular Ecology


The dissolution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater has altered its carbonate chemistry in the process of ocean acidification (OA). OA affects the viability of marine species. In particular, calcifying organisms and their early planktonic larval stages are considered vulnerable. These organisms often utilize energy reserves for metabolism rather than growth and calcification as supported by bulk RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) experiments. Yet, transcriptomic profiling of a bulk sample reflects the average gene expression of the population, neglecting the variations between individuals, which forms the basis for natural selection. Here, we used single-embryo RNA-seq on larval sea urchin Heliocidaris crassispina, which is a commercially and ecologically valuable species in East Asia, to document gene expression changes to OA at an individual and family level. Three paternal half-sibs groups were fertilized and exposed to 3 pH conditions (ambient pH 8.0, 7.7 and 7.4) for 12 h prior to sequencing and oxygen consumption assay. The resulting transcriptomic profile of all embryos can be distinguished into four clusters, with differences in gene expressions that govern biomineralization, cell differentiation and patterning, as well as metabolism. While these responses were influenced by pH conditions, the male identities also had an effect. Specifically, a regression model and goodness of fit tests indicated a significant interaction between sire and pH on the probability of embryo membership in different clusters of gene expression. The single-embryo RNA-seq approach is promising in climate stressor research because not only does it highlight potential impacts before phenotypic changes were observed, but it also highlights variations between individuals and lineages, thus enabling a better determination of evolutionary potential.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


This work is freely available under a Creative Commons license.

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