P1.19 Wednesday, Jan. 4 Induction of Cell Death in Nematostella vectensis by Environmentally Relevant Concentrations of Macondo Crude Oil from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill PORTER, Danielle*; PERKINS, Samantha; PRITCHETT, Jazmine; TARRANT, Ann M. ; JENNY, Matthew J.; Univ. of Alabama; Univ. of Alabama; Univ. of Alabama; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Univ. of Alabama firstname.lastname@example.org
The Deepwater Horizon spill released ~5 million barrels of crude oil (Macondo Prospect) into the Gulf of Mexico in the Spring-Summer of 2010 posing a serious threat to marine and estuarine organisms. Although much is known regarding hydrocarbon toxicity in vertebrates, comparable knowledge regarding the sublethal physiological responses of estuarine invertebrates to hydrocarbon-based pollutants is lacking. To further investigate these mechanisms, we have chosen the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, as our model organism. As a cnidarian, N. vectensis is part of a sister group to the Bilateria and thus provides an evolutionary context for elucidation of conserved pathways in cellular and molecular responses to hydrocarbon exposure. To determine if environmentally relevant concentrations of Macondo crude oil were capable of causing cellular stress, sea anemones were exposed to various concentrations of oil (5-20 ppm) or oil and dispersant (2 ppm dispersant) in equilibrated seawater and sampled after periods of 3, 5 and 7 days for histological assessment. Whole animals were embedded in paraffin and cross-sectioned for staining and assessment of cell damage using the TUNEL method to detect fragmented DNA characteristic of apoptosis. 5 to 7 days of exposure to 20 ppm of crude oil was sufficient to cause widespread cell death. Additional analyses are underway to determine if dispersant enhances the toxicity of oil as determined by the prevalence of apoptotic cells. The current data support the observation that environmentally relevant concentrations of crude oil are capable of causing severe cellular damage to Nematostella via water-borne exposures.