The time course of molecular acclimation to seawater in a euryhaline fish.

Lucrezia C Bonzi, Alison Monroe, Robert Lehmann, Michael L. Berumen, Timothy Ravasi, Celia Schunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Arabian pupfish, Aphanius dispar, is a euryhaline fish inhabiting both inland nearly-freshwater desert ponds and highly saline Red Sea coastal lagoons of the Arabian Peninsula. Desert ponds and coastal lagoons, located respectively upstream and at the mouths of dry riverbeds ("wadies"), have been found to potentially become connected during periods of intense rainfall, which could allow the fish to migrate between these different habitats. Flash floods would therefore flush Arabian pupfish out to sea, requiring a rapid acclimation to a greater than 40 ppt change in salinity. To investigate the molecular pathways of salinity acclimation during such events, a Red Sea coastal lagoon and a desert pond population were sampled, with the latter exposed to a rapid increase in water salinity. Changes in branchial gene expression were investigated via genome-wide transcriptome measurements over time from 6 h to 21 days. The two natural populations displayed basal differences in genes related to ion transport, osmoregulation and immune system functions. These mechanisms were also differentially regulated in seawater transferred fish, revealing their crucial role in long-term adaptation. Other processes were only transiently activated shortly after the salinity exposure, including cellular stress response mechanisms, such as molecular chaperone synthesis and apoptosis. Tissue remodelling processes were also identified as transient, but took place later in the timeline, suggesting their importance to long-term acclimation as they likely equip the fish with lasting adaptations to their new environment. The alterations in branchial functional pathways displayed by Arabian pupfish in response to salinity increases are diverse. These reveal a large toolkit of molecular processes important for adaptation to hyperosmolarity that allow for successful colonization to a wide variety of different habitats.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 14 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-09-17
Acknowledgements: This study was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The project was completed under ethics permit 15IBEC35_Ravasi from the Institutional Biosafety and BioEthics Committee (IBEC) of KAUST. We thank KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab and Jessica L. Norstog for assistance with animal collection and maintenance. We also thank KAUST Bioscience Core Lab for assistance with Illumina library preparation and sequencing.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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