An indoor study of the combined effect of industrial pollution and turbulence events on the gut environment in a marine invertebrate.


Natural storms are able to determine reworking of seabed up to considerable depths and favour suspension of sediment-associated chemicals. Yet, a direct link between exposure to resuspended contaminants and the biological effects on marine organisms have to be fully established. We exposed adults of a suspension feeder, the ascidian Ciona robusta, to polluted sediment (e.g., containing mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals) from the industrial area of Bagnoli-Coroglio under two temporal patterns (‘aggregated’ vs. ‘spaced’) of turbulence events. Then, we assessed the impact of resuspended pollutants on the ascidian gut environment via four broad categories: oxidative stress, innate immunity, host-microbiota interactions, and epithelium. An early oxidative stress response was seen after a week of exposure to static sediment. Instead, water turbulence had no effect on the antioxidant defence. The first episode of turbulent suspension induced a minimal pro-inflammatory response in the ‘spaced’ pattern. Mucus overproduction and a complete occlusion of the crypt lumen were found following sediment reworking. This study suggests a protective response of the gut environment in marine invertebrates exposed to environmental extremes, leading to increased susceptibility to disease and to concerns on the combined effects of chronic environmental contamination and acute disturbance events possibly associated with climate change.

Authors: Liberti A, Bertocci I, Pollet A, Musco L, Locascio A, Ristortore F, Spagnuolo A, Sordino P
; Full Source: Marine environmental research. 2020 Mar 9;158:104950. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.104950. [Epub ahead of print]