Localization of the bacterial agent of juvenile oyster disease (Roseovarius crassostreae) within affected eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica)

J Invertebr Pathol. 2008 Feb;97(2):150-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2007.08.007. Epub 2007 Sep 1.


The bacterium Roseovarius crassostreae causes seasonal mortalities among commercially produced eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) grown in the Northeastern United States. Phylogenetically, the species belongs to a major lineage of marine bacteria (the Roseobacter clade), within which Roseovarius crassostreae is the only known pathogen to be isolated in laboratory culture. The objective of the current study was to determine the location and nature of R. crassostreae interactions with oysters affected by juvenile oyster disease (JOD). Scanning electron microscopy of diseased individuals revealed abundant colonization of the inner shell surfaces by bacteria which were morphologically similar to R. crassostreae. The same types of cells were also observed on and within layers of host-derived conchiolin on the inner valves. Most bacterial cells were alive as determined by the use of a fluorescent viability stain. Further, most were clearly attached at the cell poles, which is consistent with the ability of R. crassostreae to express polar fimbriae. When material from the pallial fluid, soft tissue and inner valve surfaces was cultured, the highest numbers of R. crassostreae were recovered from the inner valves. These samples also contained the greatest abundance of R. crassostreae as a percentage of total colonies. Cloning and sequencing of 16S rRNA genes provided culture-independent evidence of the numerical dominance of R. crassostreae among the bacterial consortia associated with the inner shell surfaces of JOD-affected animals. The ability of R. crassostreae to colonize shell and conchiolin is consistent with the described JOD-pathology and may aid the bacteria in avoiding hemocyte-mediated killing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crassostrea / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • New England
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Rhodobacteraceae / classification
  • Rhodobacteraceae / genetics
  • Rhodobacteraceae / pathogenicity*
  • Rhodobacteraceae / ultrastructure*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Bacterial