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Open Access Research article

Conjugating effects of symbionts and environmental factors on gene expression in deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussels

Isabelle Boutet12*, Raymond Ripp3, Odile Lecompte3, Carole Dossat4, Erwan Corre5, Arnaud Tanguy12 and François H Lallier12

Author Affiliations

1 CNRS, UMR 7144, Adaptation et Diversité en Milieu Marin, Station Biologique de Roscoff, 29682 Roscoff, France

2 UPMC Université Paris 06, Station Biologique de Roscoff, 29682 Roscoff, France

3 Department of Structural Biology and Genomics, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), INSERM U596, UMR CNRS 7104, Faculté des Sciences de la Vie, Université de Strasbourg, 67000 Strasbourg, France

4 Génoscope, Centre National de Séquençage, UMR CNRS 8030, 2 Gaston Crémieux, CP 5706, 91507 Evry, France

5 Service Informatique et Génomique FR2424, Analysis and Bioinformatics for Marine Science Platform (ABiMS), Station Biologique de Roscoff, 29682 Roscoff, France

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:530  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-530

Published: 28 October 2011



The deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus harbors thiotrophic and methanotrophic symbiotic bacteria in its gills. While the symbiotic relationship between this hydrothermal mussel and these chemoautotrophic bacteria has been described, the molecular processes involved in the cross-talking between symbionts and host, in the maintenance of the symbiois, in the influence of environmental parameters on gene expression, and in transcriptome variation across individuals remain poorly understood. In an attempt to understand how, and to what extent, this double symbiosis affects host gene expression, we used a transcriptomic approach to identify genes potentially regulated by symbiont characteristics, environmental conditions or both. This study was done on mussels from two contrasting populations.


Subtractive libraries allowed the identification of about 1000 genes putatively regulated by symbiosis and/or environmental factors. Microarray analysis showed that 120 genes (3.5% of all genes) were differentially expressed between the Menez Gwen (MG) and Rainbow (Rb) vent fields. The total number of regulated genes in mussels harboring a high versus a low symbiont content did not differ significantly. With regard to the impact of symbiont content, only 1% of all genes were regulated by thiotrophic (SOX) and methanotrophic (MOX) bacteria content in MG mussels whereas 5.6% were regulated in mussels collected at Rb. MOX symbionts also impacted a higher proportion of genes than SOX in both vent fields. When host transcriptome expression was analyzed with respect to symbiont gene expression, it was related to symbiont quantity in each field.


Our study has produced a preliminary description of a transcriptomic response in a hydrothermal vent mussel host of both thiotrophic and methanotrophic symbiotic bacteria. This model can help to identify genes involved in the maintenance of symbiosis or regulated by environmental parameters. Our results provide evidence of symbiont effect on transcriptome regulation, with differences related to type of symbiont, even though the relative percentage of genes involved remains limited. Differences observed between the vent site indicate that environment strongly influences transcriptome regulation and impacts both activity and relative abundance of each symbiont. Among all these genes, those participating in recognition, the immune system, oxidative stress, and energy metabolism constitute new promising targets for extended studies on symbiosis and the effect of environmental parameters on the symbiotic relationships in B. azoricus.

Bathymodiolus azoricus; symbiosis; gene expression; environment