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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25980. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025980. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

Nitric oxide mediates the stress response induced by diatom aldehydes in the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus.

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Laboratory of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, Naples, Italy.


Diatoms are ubiquitous and abundant primary producers that have been traditionally considered as a beneficial food source for grazers and for the transfer of carbon through marine food webs. However, many diatom species produce polyunsaturated aldehydes that disrupt development in the offspring of grazers that feed on these unicellular algae. Here we provide evidence that production of the physiological messenger nitric oxide increases after treatment with the polyunsaturated aldehyde decadienal in embryos of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. At high decadienal concentrations, nitric oxide mediates initial apoptotic events leading to loss of mitochondrial functionality through the generation of peroxynitrite. At low decadienal concentrations, nitric oxide contributes to the activation of hsp70 gene expression thereby protecting embryos against the toxic effects of this aldehyde. When nitric oxide levels were lowered by inhibiting nitric oxide synthase activity, the expression of hsp70 in swimming blastula decreased and the proportion of abnormal plutei increased. However, in later pluteus stages nitric oxide was no longer able to exert this protective function: hsp70 and nitric oxide synthase expression decreased with a consequent increase in the expression of caspase-8. Our findings that nitric oxide production increases rapidly in response to a toxic exogenous stimulus opens new perspectives on the possible role of this gas as an important messenger to environmental stress in sea urchins and for understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying toxicity during diatom blooms.

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