The invasive marine mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis has displaced the native congener Mytilus trossulus from central and southern California, but the native species remains dominant at more northerly sites that have high levels of freshwater input. To determine the extent to which interspecific differences in physiological tolerance to low salinity might explain limits to the invasive species’ biogeography, we used an oligonucleotide microarray to compare the transcriptional responses of these two species to an acute decrease in salinity. Among 6777 genes on the microarray, 117 genes showed significant changes that were similar between species, and 12 genes showed significant species-specific responses to salinity stress. Osmoregulation and cell cycle control were important aspects of the shared transcriptomic response to salinity stress, whereas the genes with species-specific expression patterns were involved in mRNA splicing, polyamine synthesis, exocytosis, translation, cell adhesion, and cell signalling. Forty-five genes that changed expression significantly during salinity stress also changed expression during heat stress, but the direction of change in expression was typically opposite for the two forms of stress. These results (i) provide insights into the role of changes in gene expression in establishing physiological tolerance to acute decreases in salinity, and (ii) indicate that transcriptomic differences between M. galloprovincialis and M. trossulus in response to salinity stress are subtle and involve only a minor fraction of the overall suite of gene regulatory responses.
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