Ontogenetic variation in salinity adaptation has been noted for the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, which uses the export strategy for larval development: females migrate from the estuaries to the coast to spawn, larvae develop in the ocean, and postlarvae (megalopae) colonize estuarine areas. We hypothesized that C. sapidus larvae may be stenohaline and have limited osmoregulatory capacity which compromises their ability to survive in lower salinity waters. We tested this hypothesis using hatchery-raised larvae that were traceable to specific life stages. In addition, we aimed to understand the possible involvement of AQP-1 in salinity adaptation during larval development and during exposure to hyposalinity.
A full-length cDNA sequence of aquaporin (GenBank JQ970426) was isolated from the hypodermis of the blue crab, C. sapidus, using PCR with degenerate primers and 5′ and 3′ RACE. The open reading frame of CasAQP-1 consists of 238 amino acids containing six helical structures and two NPA motifs for the water pore. The expression pattern of CasAQP-1 was ubiquitous in cDNAs from all tissues examined, although higher in the hepatopancreas, thoracic ganglia, abdominal muscle, and hypodermis and lower in the antennal gland, heart, hemocytes, ovary, eyestalk, brain, hindgut, Y-organs, and gill. Callinectes larvae differed in their capacity to molt in hyposalinity, as those at earlier stages from Zoea (Z) 1 to Z4 had lower molting rates than those from Z5 onwards, as compared to controls kept in 30 ppt water. No difference was found in the survival of larvae held at 15 and 30 ppt. CasAQP-1 expression differed with ontogeny during larval development, with significantly higher expression at Z1-2, compared to other larval stages. The exposure to 15 ppt affected larval-stage dependent CasAQP-1 expression which was significantly higher in Z2- 6 stages than the other larval stages.
We report the ontogenetic variation in CasAQP-1 expression during the larval development of C. sapidus and the induction of its expression at early larval stages in the exposure of hyposalinity. However, it remains to be determined if the increase in CasAQP-1 expression at later larval stages may have a role in adaptation to hyposalinity.