Crude oil spills are a worldwide ocean conservation threat. Fish are particularly vulnerable to the oiling of spawning habitats, and crude oil causes severe abnormalities in embryos and larvae. However, the underlying mechanisms for these developmental defects are not well understood. Here, we explore the transcriptional basis for four discrete crude oil injury phenotypes in the early life stages of the commercially important Atlantic haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus). These include defects in (1) cardiac form and function, (2) craniofacial development, (3) ionoregulation and fluid balance, and (4) cholesterol synthesis and homeostasis. Our findings suggest a key role for intracellular calcium cycling and excitation-transcription coupling in the dysregulation of heart and jaw morphogenesis. Moreover, the disruption of ionoregulatory pathways sheds new light on buoyancy control in marine fish embryos. Overall, our chemical-genetic approach identifies initiating events for distinct adverse outcome pathways and novel roles for individual genes in fundamental developmental processes.
Keywords: Atlantic haddock; cardiac abnormalities; chemical genetics; craniofacial abnormalities; crude oil; ecology; evolutionary biology; genomics; transcriptome.