Annual variation in the levels of transcripts of sex-specific genes in the mantle of the common mussel, Mytilus edulis

Sandhya Anantharaman, John Craft

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Mytilus species are used as sentinels for the assessment of environmental health but sex or stage in the reproduction cycle is rarely considered even though both parameters are likely to influence responses to pollution. We have validated the use of a qPCR assay for sex identification and related the levels of transcripts to the reproductive cycle. A temporal study of mantle of Mytilus edulis found transcripts of male-specific vitelline coat lysin (VCL) and female-specific vitelline envelope receptor for lysin (VERL) could identify sex over a complete year. The levels of VCL/VERL were proportional to the numbers of sperm/ova and are indicative of the stage of the reproductive cycle. Maximal levels of VCL and VERL were found in February 2009 declining to minima between July – August before increasing and re-attaining a peak in February 2010. Water temperature may influence these transitions since they coincide with minimal water temperature in February and maximal temperature in August. An identical pattern of variation was found for a cryptic female-specific transcript (H5) but a very different pattern was observed for oestrogen receptor 2 (ER2). ER2 varied in a sex-specific way with male > female for most of the cycle, with a female maxima in July and a male maxima in December. Using artificially spawned animals, the transcripts for VCL, VERL and H5 were shown to be present in gametes and thus their disappearance from mantle is indicative of spawning. VCL and VERL are present at equivalent levels in February and July-August but during gametogenesis (August to January) and spawning (March to June) VCL is present at lower relative amounts than VERL. This may indicate sex-specific control mechanisms for these processes and highlight a potential pressure point leading to reduced reproductive output if environmental factors cause asynchrony to gamete maturation or release.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere50861
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Mytilus edulis
  • oestrogen receptor
  • VERL
  • VCL
  • spawning
  • reproductive stages


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