Marine lab hunts subtle clues to environmental threats to blue crabs

January 26, 2010

The Atlantic blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, long prized as a savory meal at a summer party or seafood restaurant, is a multi-million dollar source of income for those who harvest, process and market the crustacean along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Unfortunately, the blue crab population has been declining in recent years under the assault of viruses, bacteria and man-made contaminants. The signs of the attack often are subtle, so researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the College of Charleston (CofC) are at work trying to identify the clues that will finger specific, yet elusive, culprits.

Pathogens and pollutants impair the blue crab's metabolic processes, the chemical reactions that produce energy for cells. These stresses should cause tell-tale changes in the levels of metabolites, small chemical compounds created during metabolism. Working at the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML) in Charleston, S.C., the NIST/CofC research team is using a technology similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify and quantify the metabolites that increase in quantity under common environmental stresses to blue crabs--metabolites that could be used as biomarkers to identify the specific sources.

In a recent paper in Metabolomics,* the HML research team describes how it used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study challenges to one specific metabolic process in blue crabs: oxygen uptake. First, the researchers simulated an environmentally acquired bacterial infection by injecting crabs with the bacterium Vibrio campbellii. This pathogen impairs the crab's ability to incorporate oxygen during metabolism. Using NMR spectroscopy to observe the impact on metabolite levels, the researchers found that the yield of glucose, considered a reliable indicator of mild oxygen starvation in crustaceans, was raised.

In a second experiment, the HML team mimicked a chemical pollutant challenge by injecting blue crabs with a chemical** known to inhibit oxidative phosphorylation, a metabolic process that manufactures energy. This time, the metabolite showing up in response to stress was lactate, the same compound seen when our muscles need energy and must take in oxygen to get more produced. A rise in the amount of lactate proved that the crabs were increasing their oxygen uptake in response to the chemical exposure.

"Having the glucose and lactate biomarkers--and the NMR spectroscopy technique to accurately detect them--is important because the blue crab's responses to mild, non-lethal metabolic stresses are often so subtle that they can be missed by traditional analyses," says Dan Bearden, corresponding author on the HML paper.
-end-
The research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

The HML is a partnership of governmental and academic agencies including NIST, NOAA's National Ocean Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.

* T.B. Schock, D.A. Stancyk, L. Thibodeaux, K.G. Burnett, L.E. Burnett, A.F.B. Boroujerdi and D.W. Bearden. Metabolomic analysis of Atlantic blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, hemolymph following oxidative stress. Metabolomics, Published online Jan. 20, 2010, DOI 10.1007/s11306-009-0194-y.

** 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP)

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Related Spectroscopy Articles from Brightsurf:

Perspectives of infrared spectroscopy in quantitative estimation of proteins
The present review describes the basic principle and the instrumentation of IR spectroscopy along with its advancements.

A new method to measure optical absorption in semiconductor crystals
Tohoku University researchers have revealed more details about omnidirectional photoluminescence (ODPL) spectroscopy - a method for probing semiconducting crystals with light to detect defects and impurities.

Properties of catalysts studied with gamma ray resonance
Steam-assisted oil extraction methods for heavy deposits have long been the focus of attention at Kazan Federal University.

Researchers demonstrate record speed with advanced spectroscopy technique
Researchers have developed an advanced spectrometer that can acquire data with exceptionally high speed.

Spectroscopy approach poised to improve treatment for serious heart arrhythmia
Researchers have demonstrated that a new mapping approach based on near infrared spectroscopy can distinguish between fat and muscle tissue in the heart.

Late blight research pairs spectroscopy with classic plant pathology diagnostics
Gold and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently published research showing how they used contact spectroscopy to non-destructively sense how plant pathogens differentially damage, impair, and alter plant traits during the course of infection.

Doing more with terahertz: Simplifying near-infrared spectroscopy systems
Researchers from Beihang University, China, and Tokushima University, Japan, have developed a terahertz spectroscopy scheme that offers outstanding resolution using a single laser.

A new horizon for vibrational circular dichroism spectroscopy
(1) The development of solid state and time-step VCD methods opened a new horizon to reveal the mechanism of chirality amplification from microscopic to supramolecular scales.

Unraveling the optical parameters: New method to optimize plasmon enhanced spectroscopy
Plasmon enhanced spectroscopies allow to reach single molecule sensitivity and a lateral resolution even down to sub-molecular resolution.

Nanoscale spectroscopy review showcases a bright future
A new review authored by international leaders in their field, and published in Nature, focuses on the luminescent nanoparticles at the heart of many advances and the opportunities and challenges for these technologies to reach their full potential.

Read More: Spectroscopy News and Spectroscopy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.