Adaptation of the antioxidant defence system in hydrothermal-vent mussels (Bathymodiolus azoricus) transplanted between two Mid-Atlantic Ridge sites


M.J. Bebianno, CIMA, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal.


The vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus is the dominant member of the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) hydrothermal megafauna, and lives in an environment characterized by temporal and spatial variations in the levels of heavy metals, methane and hydrogen sulphide, substances which are known to increase reactive oxygen species levels in the tissues of exposed organisms. To evaluate the effects of two contrasting hydrothermal environments on the antioxidant defence system of this vent mussel species, a 2-week transplant experiment was carried out involving mussels collected from the relatively deep (2300 m), and chemical rich, Rainbow vent field. These were transplanted to the shallower (1700 m), and relatively less toxic, Lucky Strike vent field. To achieve this objective, levels of superoxide dismutase, catalase (CAT), total glutathione peroxidase (GPx), selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase and lipid peroxidation (LPO) were measured in the gills and mantle tissues of resident and transplant mussels before and after the transplant experiment. With the exception of CAT, the gills of the transplanted mussels had significantly higher antioxidant enzyme activity compared with the basal levels in the donor (Rainbow) and recipient (Lucky Strike) populations; whereas the antioxidant enzyme levels in the mantle tissues of the transplants reflected the baseline levels of activity in the native Lucky Strike mussels after 2 weeks. In contrast, LPO levels were significantly higher in both tissue types in the transplants than in either the source or the recipient populations, which suggested a response to hydrostatic pressure change (note, the transplant animals were brought to the surface for transportation between the two vent fields). The fact that the Rainbow mussels survived the transplant experience indicates that B. azoricus has a very robust constitution, which enables it to cope behaviourally, physiologically and genetically with the extreme conditions found in its naturally contaminated deep-sea environment.