Early host-pathogen interactions in a marine bivalve: Crassostrea virginica pallial mucus modulates Perkinsus marinus growth and virulence

Dis Aquat Organ. 2013 Jun 13;104(3):237-47. doi: 10.3354/dao02599.


Perkinsus marinus is an important protistan parasite of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. Recent findings showed that oyster pallial organs (mantle, gills) are a major portal of entry for the parasite. Therefore, mucus covering these organs represents the first host effectors encountered by P. marinus. This study consisted of several experiments designed to investigate the effect of oyster pallial mucus on the growth, protease production and infectivity of P. marinus. In each experiment, P. marinus performance in cultures supplemented with pallial mucus (mantle, gill, or both) was compared to that of parasite cells grown in unsupplemented media or in cultures supplemented with oyster plasma or digestive extracts. P. marinus grown in media supplemented with C. virginica mantle mucus showed a significantly higher growth rate than cultures enriched with the other supplemental extracts, while cultures grown in gill mucus promoted higher protease production. Conversely, P. marinus grown in cultures supplemented with pallial mucus of the non-compatible host Crassostrea gigas (Pacific oyster) were dramatically inhibited. Challenge experiments showed a significant increase in P. marinus virulence in cultures supplemented with C. virginica pallial mucus as compared to unsupplemented cultures or to those supplemented with digestive extract or plasma. These results suggest that C. virginica mucus plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of P. marinus by enhancing the proliferation and the infectivity of this devastating parasite. The contrasting results obtained with both oyster species indicate that P. marinus host specificity may begin in the mucus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alveolata / pathogenicity
  • Alveolata / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Crassostrea / parasitology*
  • Crassostrea / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Virulence