Innate immunity in the deep sea hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus

Raul Bettencourt*, Paul Dando, Patrick Collins, Valentina Costa, Bassem Allam, Ricardo Serrão Santos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The interaction between microorganisms and host defense mechanisms is a decisive factor for the survival of marine bivalves. They rely on cell-mediated and humoral reactions to overcome the pathogens that naturally occur in the marine environment. In order to understand host defense reactions in animals inhabiting extreme environments we investigated some of the components from the immune system of the deep sea hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus. Cellular constituents in the hemolymph and extrapallial fluid were examined and led to the identification of three types of hemocytes revealing the granulocytes as the most abundant type of cell. To further characterize hemocyte types, the presence of cell surface carbohydrate epitopes was demonstrated with fluorescent WGA lectin, which was mostly ascribed to the granulocytes. Cellular reactions were then investigated by means of phagocytosis and by the activation of putative MAPKs using the microbial compounds zymosan, glucan, peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharide. Two bacterial agents, Bacillus subtilis and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, were also used to stimulate hemocytes. The results showed that granulocytes were the main phagocytic cells in both hemolymph and extrapallial fluid of B. azoricus. Western blotting analyses using commercially available antibodies against ERK, p38 and JNK, suggested that these putative kinases are involved in signal transduction pathways during experimental stimulation of B. azoricus hemocytes. The fluorescent Ca2+ indicator Fura-2 AM was also insightful in demonstrating hemocyte stimulation in the presence of laminarin or live V. parahaemolyticus. Finally, the expression of the antibacterial gene mytilin was analyzed in gill tissues by means of RT-PCR and whole-mount in situ hybridization. Mytilin transcripts were localized in hemocytes underlying gill epithelium. Moreover, mytilin was induced by exposure of live animals to V. parahaemolyticus. These findings support the premise of a conserved innate immune system in B. azoricus. Such system is comparable to other Bivalves and involves the participation of cellular and humoral components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-289
Number of pages12
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bathymodiolus azoricus
  • Bivalve
  • Calcium
  • Cellular immunity
  • Hemocyte
  • Hydrothermal
  • Intracellular signaling
  • MAPKs
  • Mytilin
  • Phagocytosis
  • Vibrio sp.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


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