Loggerhead sea turtle embryos (Caretta caretta) regulate expression of stress response and developmental genes when exposed to a biologically realistic heat stress

Blair P. Bentley, Brian J. Haas, Jamie N. Tedeschi, Oliver Berry

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    31 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Oviparous reptile embryos are expected to breach their critical thermal maxima if temperatures reach those predicted under current climate change models due to the lack of the maternal buffering processes and parental care. Heat-shock proteins (HSPs) are integral in the molecular response to thermal stress, and their expression is heritable, but the roles of other candidate families such as the heat-shock factors (HSFs) have not been determined in reptiles. Here, we subject embryonic sea turtles (Caretta caretta) to a biologically realistic thermal stress and employ de novo transcriptomic profiling of brain tissue to investigate the underlying molecular response. From a reference transcriptome of 302 293 transcripts, 179 were identified as differentially expressed between treatments. As anticipated, genes enriched in the heat-shock treatment were primarily associated with the Hsp families, or were genes whose products play similar protein editing and chaperone functions (e.g. bag3, MYOC and serpinh1). Unexpectedly, genes encoding the HSFs were not significantly upregulated under thermal stress, indicating their presence in unstressed cells in an inactive state. Genes that were downregulated under thermal stress were less well functionally defined but were associated with stress response, development and cellular organization, suggesting that developmental processes may be compromised at realistically high temperatures. These results confirm that genes from the Hsp families play vital roles in the thermal tolerance of developing reptile embryos and, in addition with a number of other genes, should be targets for evaluating the capacity of oviparous reptiles to respond adaptively to the effects of climate change.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2978-2992
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Volume26
    Issue number11
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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