Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Lars Tomanek


Nitrate is the most common ionic form of nitrogen in aquatic ecosystems. Although nitrate is known to affect ecosystems at high levels through eutrophication, hypoxia and loss of biodiversity, it is considered to be physiologically inert to the individual aquatic organism. To test the physiological effects of nitrate on aquatic life, we exposed gill tissue of the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, to nitrate and characterized changes in protein expression, using a gel-based proteomics approach. Of the 642 protein spots detected, we found that 24 proteins (15 identified) changed expression in response to a 6-hour exposure to nitrate concentrations ranging from 0-73 mg/L, values that characterize highly contaminated surface and ground waters. Proteins changing expression included the oxidative stress proteins thioredoxin and cavortin (a member of the superoxide dismutase family) as well as proteins that are involved in G-protein signaling (Rho-GDI, ADP-ribosylation factor, G-protein ß-subunit), protein homeostasis (heat shock protein 70, prohibitin, calreticulin, and proteasome &#;-type 4 subunit), glycolysis (enolase), transport of hydrophobic molecules (lipocalin) and cytoskeletal arrangements (intermediate filaments and a gelsolin-like adseverin). The most parsimonious explanation for these changes in protein expression assumes that C. gigas reduces nitrate to nitrite and nitric oxide, which reacts with superoxide anions to form the very reactive peroxynitrite. We propose that part of the cellular response to reactive nitrogen species,phagocytic hemocytes inhibit the production of reactive oxygen species, potentially compromising the immune response of oysters to invading pathogens.