Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a family of genes classically used to measure levels of organism stress. We have previously identified two HSP70 genes (HSP70A and HSP70B) in sub-tidal populations of the Antarctic limpet (Nacella concinna). These genes are up-regulated in response to increased seawater temperatures of 15°C or more during acute heat shock experiments, temperatures that have very little basis when considering the current Antarctic ecology of these animals. Therefore, the question was posed as to whether these animals could express HSP70 genes when subjected to more complex environmental conditions, such as those that occur in the inter-tidal. Inter-tidal limpets were collected on three occasions in different weather conditions at South Cove, Rothera Point, over a complete tidal cycle, and the expression levels of the HSP70 genes were measured. Both genes showed relative up-regulation of gene expression over the period of the tidal cycle. The average foot temperature of these animals was 3.3°C, far below that of the acute heat shock experiments. These experiments demonstrate that the temperature and expression levels of HSP production in wild animals cannot be accurately extrapolated from experimentally induced treatments, especially when considering the complexity of stressors in the natural environment. However, experimental manipulation can provide molecular markers for identifying stress in Antarctic molluscs, provided it is accompanied by environmental validation, as demonstrated here.
Authors: Clark, Melody S., Geissler, Paul, Waller, Catherine, Fraser, Keiron P.P., Barnes, David K.A., Peck, Lloyd S.