Changes in the immune response and metabolic fingerprint of the mussel, Mytilus edulis (Linnaeus) in response to lowered salinity and physical stress

James A. Bussell, E. A. Gidman, D. R. Causton, D. Gwynn-Jones, Shelagh K. Malham, M. Laurence M. Jones, Brian Reynolds, Ray Seed

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103 Citations (SciVal)


Mussels, such as Mytilus edulis, are common keystone species on open coasts and in estuaries and are frequently used in environmental monitoring programmes. Mussels experience a wide range of environmental conditions at these locations, including rapid changes in salinity and physical disturbance (both natural and from aquaculture practices).

This paper addressed the hypothesis that reduced salinity will lower mussel blood immune function and influence mussel blood metabolic responses, and that this will in turn increase the susceptibility of mussels to other stresses such as physical disturbance. To test these hypotheses, experiments were conducted in controlled laboratory tank conditions and mussel blood was analysed using a combination of metabolic fingerprinting with FT-IR and immunological assay techniques.

Reducing seawater salinity to half that of normal caused a significant reduction in several measures of immune function, including the concentration of haemocytes, percentage of eosinophilic haemocytes and phagocytosis. Mechanical shaking of mussels for 10 min caused a reduction in the level of respiratory burst activity. However, there was no evidence of additive or interactive effects of lowered salinity with shaking on the immune response. Analysis of mussel blood metabolic fingerprints revealed differences in response to half salinity (vs. full salinity) but there were no detectable effects of shaking. Increasing frequency and magnitude of flood events at coastal sites due to climate change could lead to longer, and more frequent, periods of reduced salinity. The potential impact on the immune function of this keystone species within or near estuaries could have knock-on effects on the wider ecosystem including altered nutrient cycling, changes in biodiversity and aquaculture production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 07 Apr 2008


  • Aquaculture
  • Climate change
  • Immune response
  • Mussel
  • Salinity
  • Stress


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