Gene study may help solve Sydney rock oyster mystery

Jun 09, 2009

A study of oyster genetics is helping scientists better understand the mysterious QX-disease, which has been responsible in the past for killing Sydney rock oysters in the Georges and Hawkesbury Rivers.

Scientists already believe that QX-disease affects oysters that are under some form of acute environmental stress, caused by things like temperature change, starvation, changing salinity levels or physical agitation (i.e. movement during transportation).

With this new study, Macquarie University PhD student Margaret Simonian and marine biologist Associate Professor David Raftos are working with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to identify which genes in the oysters are affected by stress, as well as those that provide resistance to QX disease.

"Like humans, oysters suffering from acute stress have difficulty maintaining a hormonal balance and this affects their immune systems," Raftos explained.

The NSW DPI responded to the threat posed by QX-disease with a selective breeding program that has massively decreased oyster mortality linked to the disease.

"The is helping us to explain why the DPI's breeding program has been such a success and may lead to new, more effective ways of testing for particular genes in the oysters," Simonian said.

"It's also giving us a good understanding of the stress factors which lead to disease susceptibility in oysters, which in turn may help producers in the future."

QX-disease was responsible for wiping out oyster farming in the Georges River in the 1990s, and was then found in the Hawkesbury River in Sydney's north-west in 2004.

The Georges River outbreak has since been linked to the caused by low salinity following heavy rain, but nobody has yet discovered what caused the Hawkesbury to be affected.

Source: Macquarie University

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes behind animal growth discovered

Jan 29, 2007

How many genes influence a complex trait, like weight, height or body type? And why does the answer matter? Among other reasons, because the "Green Revolution" that multiplied crop yields has to be followed by a "Blue Revolution" ...

Why do oysters choose to live where they could be eaten?

May 01, 2007

There are many reasons why living in dense groups with others of your own kind is a good idea. Oftentimes, aggregations of a species serve as protection from predators and harsh environments or may be beneficial to future ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

17 hours ago

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

18 hours ago

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0