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Title: Nuclear receptors in the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, as screening tool for determining response to environmental contaminants
Author: Vogeler, Susanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5994 3740
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
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Marine environments are under constant pressure from anthropogenic pollution. Chemical pollutants are introduced into the aquatic environment through waste disposal, sewage, land runoff and environmental exploitation (harbours, fisheries, tourism) leading to disastrous effects on the marine wildlife. Developmental malformations, reproduction failure including sex changes and high death rates are commonly observed in aquatic animal populations around the world. Unfortunately, the underlying molecular mechanisms of these pollution effects, in particular for marine invertebrate species, are often unknown. One proposed mechanism through which environmental pollution affects wildlife, is the disruption of nuclear receptors (NRs), ligand-binding transcription factors in animals. Environmental pollutants can directly interact with nuclear receptors, inducing incorrect signals for gene expression and subsequently disrupt developmental and physiological processes. Elucidation of the exact mechanism in invertebrates, however, is sparse due to limited understanding of invertebrate endocrinology and molecular regulatory mechanisms. Here, I have investigated the presence, expression and function of NRs in the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, and explored their interrelation with known environmental pollutants. Using a suite of molecular techniques and bioinformatics tools I demonstrate that the Pacific oyster possesses a large variety of NR homologs (43 NRs), which display individual expression profiles during embryo/larval development and supposedly fulfil distinct functions in developmental and physiological processes. Functional studies on a small subset of oyster NRs provided evidence for their ability to regulate gene expression, including interactions with DNA, other NRs or small molecules (ligand-binding). Oyster receptors also show a high likeliness to be disrupted by environmental pollutants. Computational docking showed that the retinoid X receptor ortholog, CgRXR, is able to bind and be activated by 9-cis retinoic acid and by the well-known environmental contaminant tributyltin. A potential interaction between tributyltin and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor ortholog CgPPAR has also been found. In addition, exposure of oyster embryos to retinoic acids and tributyltin resulted in shell deformations and developmental failure. In contrast, computer modelling of another putative target for pollutants, the retinoic acid receptor ortholog CgRAR, did not indicate interactions with common retinoic acids, supporting a recently developed theory of loss of retinoid binding in molluscan RARs. Sequence analyses revealed six residues in the receptor sequence, which prevent the successful interaction with retinoid ligands. In conclusion, this investigative work aids the understanding of fundamental processes in invertebrates, such as gene expression and endocrinology, as well as further understanding and prediction of effects of environmental pollutants on marine invertebrates.
Supervisor: Galloway, Tamara ; Bean, Tim ; Lyons, Brett Sponsor: University of Exeter ; Centre for Environment ; Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Pacific oyster ; Crassostrea gigas ; nuclear receptor ; xenobiotic ; invertebrate development ; endocrine disruptive chemicals ; Mollusca ; Bivalve ; retinoid X receptor RXR ; retinoic acid receptor RAR ; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor PPAR