1H NMR Metabolomics Reveals Contrasting Response by Male and Female Mussels Exposed to Reduced Seawater pH, Increased Temperature, and a Pathogen

Human activities are fundamentally altering the chemistry of the world’s oceans. Ocean acidification (OA) is occurring against a background of warming and an increasing occurrence of disease outbreaks, posing a significant threat to marine organisms, communities, and ecosystems. In the current study, 1H NMR spectroscopy was used to investigate the response of the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, to a 90-day exposure to reduced seawater pH and increased temperature, followed by a subsequent pathogenic challenge. Analysis of the metabolome revealed significant differences between male and female organisms. Furthermore, males and females are shown to respond differently to environmental stress. While males were significantly affected by reduced seawater pH, increased temperature, and a bacterial challenge, it was only a reduction in seawater pH that impacted females. Despite impacting males and females differently, stressors seem to act via a generalized stress response impacting both energy metabolism and osmotic balance in both sexes. This study therefore has important implications for the interpretation of metabolomic data in mussels, as well as the impact of environmental stress in marine invertebrates in general.