Anthropogenic inputs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are driving ocean warming and acidification. The potential threat represented by these changes for marine species could be amplified in coastal areas, characterized by higher levels of pollutants. In addition, temperate organisms may exhibit a different seasonal tolerance to stressors influenced by fluctuations of environmental and physiological factors. In this study, Mediterranean mussels Mytilus galloprovincialis collected both in summer and winter were exposed to combinations of two temperatures (SST, seasonal surface temperature and SST+5 °C) and two levels of pH (8.20 and 7.40) in clean or cadmium contaminated seawater (20 μg/L Cd). mRNA levels of genes related to metal-induced stress response were investigated, including metallothionein mt-20, heat-shock protein hsp70, superoxide dismutase Cu/Zn-sod, catalase cat, glutathione peroxidase gpx1 and glutathione S-transferase gst-pi. To further elucidate if tissues with different physiological roles could exhibit different responsiveness, such analyses were carried out in digestive gland and in gills of exposed mussels. mt-20 mRNA increase after Cd-exposure was higher in the digestive gland than in the gills, with few modulations by temperature or pH only in the latter. Acidification, alone or in combination with other stressors, increased hsp70 mRNA, with seasonal- and tissue-specificities (higher in summer and in digestive gland). Among antioxidants, gpx1 mRNA was affected by Cd in both tissues and seasons, with further modulations due to pH and temperature variation tissue- and season-specific; in winter the combination of Cd, warming and acidification affected Cu/Zn-sod both in digestive gland and gills and cat only in gills, while weak seasonal variations were observed for gst-pi transcripts only in digestive gland. The overall results highlighted the importance of considering seasonality and responsiveness of different tissues to predict the effects of sudden changes in environmental parameters on responsiveness to and toxicity of chemicals in marine coastal organisms.
In order to allow full comparability with other ocean acidification data sets, the R package seacarb (Gattuso et al, 2019) was used to compute a complete and consistent set of carbonate system variables, as described by Nisumaa et al. (2010). In this dataset the original values were archived in addition with the recalculated parameters (see related PI). The date of carbonate chemistry calculation by seacarb is 2020-10-14.