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Keywords:

  • abiotic stress;
  • copepod;
  • ecological genomics;
  • salinity;
  • sea lice;
  • transcriptomics

Abstract

The salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis is a marine ectoparasite of wild and farmed salmon in the Northern Hemisphere. Infections of farmed salmon are of economic and ecological concern. Nauplius and copepodid salmon lice larvae are free-swimming and disperse in the water column until they encounter a host. In this study, we characterized the sublethal stress responses of L. salmonis copepodid larvae by applying a 38K oligonucleotide microarray to profile transcriptomes following 24 h exposures to suboptimal salinity (30–10 parts per thousand ()) or temperature (16–4 °C) environments. Hyposalinity exposure resulted in large-scale gene expression changes relative to those elicited by a thermal gradient. Subsequently, transcriptome responses to a more finely resolved salinity gradient between 30 and 25 were profiled. Minimal changes occurred at 29 or 28 , a threshold of response was identified at 27 , and the largest response was at 25 ‰. Differentially expressed genes were clustered by pattern of expression, and clusters were characterized by functional enrichment analysis. Results indicate larval copepods adopt two distinct coping strategies in response to short-term hyposaline stress: a primary response using molecular chaperones and catabolic processes at 27 ; and a secondary response up-regulating ion pumps, transporters, a different suite of chaperones and apoptosis-related transcripts at 26 and 25 . The results further our understanding of the tolerances of L. salmonis copepodids to salinity and temperature gradients and may assist in the development of salmon louse management strategies.