Metabolic Regulation of Copper Toxicity during Marine Mussel Embryogenesis
The development of new tools for assessing the health of cultured shellfish larvae is crucial for aquaculture industries to develop and refine hatchery methodologies. We established a large-volume ecotoxicology/health stressor trial, exposing mussel (Perna canaliculus) embryos to copper in the presence of ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). GC/MS-based metabolomics was applied to identify potential biomarkers for monitoring embryonic/larval health and to characterise mechanisms of metal toxicity. Cellular viability, developmental abnormalities, larval behaviour, mortality, and a targeted analysis of proteins involved in the regulation of reactive oxygen species were simultaneously evaluated to provide a complementary framework for interpretative purposes and authenticate the metabolomics data. Trace metal analysis and speciation modelling verified EDTA as an effective copper chelator. Toxicity thresholds for P. canaliculus were low, with 10% developmental abnormalities in D-stage larvae being recorded upon exposure to 1.10 μg·L-1 bioavailable copper for 66 h. Sublethal levels of bioavailable copper (0.04 and 1.10 μg·L-1) caused coordinated fluctuations in metabolite profiles, which were dependent on development stage, treatment level, and exposure duration. Larvae appeared to successfully employ various mechanisms involving the biosynthesis of antioxidants and a restructuring of energy-related metabolism to alleviate the toxic effects of copper on cells and developing tissues. These results suggest that regulation of trace metal-induced toxicity is tightly linked with metabolism during the early ontogenic development of marine mussels. Lethal-level bioavailable copper (50.3 μg·L-1) caused severe metabolic dysregulation after 3 h of exposure, which worsened with time, substantially delayed embryonic development, induced critical oxidative damage, initiated the apoptotic pathway, and resulted in cell/organism death shortly after 18 h of exposure. Metabolite profiling is a useful approach to (1) assess the health status of marine invertebrate embryos and larvae, (2) detect early warning biomarkers for trace metal contamination, and (3) identify novel regulatory mechanisms of copper-induced toxicity.