RNA-seq analyses of Marine Medaka (Oryzias melastigma) reveals salinity responsive transcriptomes in the gills and livers

Aquat Toxicol. 2021 Sep 16;240:105970. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2021.105970. Online ahead of print.


Increasing salinity levels in marine and estuarine ecosystems greatly influence developmental, physiological and molecular activities of inhabiting fauna. Marine medaka (Oryzias melastigma), a euryhaline research model, has extraordinary abilities to survive in a wide range of aquatic salinity. To elucidate how marine medaka copes with salinity differences, the responses of Oryzias melastigma after being transferred to different salt concentrations [0 practical salinity units (psu), 15 psu, 30 psu (control), 45 psu] were studied at developmental, histochemical and transcriptome levels in the gill and liver tissues. A greater number of gills differentially expressed genes (DEG) under 0 psu (609) than 15 psu (157) and 45 psu (312), indicating transcriptomic adjustments in gills were more sensitive to the extreme hypotonic environment. A greater number of livers DEGs were observed in 45 psu (1,664) than 0 psu (87) and L15 psu (512), suggesting that liver was more susceptible to hypertonic environment. Further functional analyses of DEGs showed that gills have a more immediate response, mainly in adjusting ion balance, immune and signal transduction. In contrast, DEGs in livers were involved in protein synthesis and processing. We also identified common DEGs in both gill and liver and found they were mostly involved in osmotic regulation of amino sugar and nucleotide sugar metabolism and steroid biosynthesis. Additionally, salinity stresses showed no significant effects on most developmental and histochemical parameters except increased heartbeat with increasing salinity and decreased glycogen after transferred from stable conditions (30 psu) to other salinity environments. These findings suggested that salinity-stress induced changes in gene expressions could reduce the effects on developmental and histochemical parameters. Overall, this study provides a useful resource for understanding the molecular mechanisms of fish responses to salinity stresses.

Keywords: Aquatic toxicology; Differentially expressed gene; Histochemicals; Osmoregulation; Teleost; Transcriptional profiling.