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Metaplasia of respiratory and digestive tissues in the Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
  • Deanne Roopnarine, Nova Southeastern University
  • Peter D. Roopnarine, California Academy of Sciences
  • Laurie C Anderson, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • Ji Hae Hwang, Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine
  • Swati Patel, Nova Southeastern University
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Metaplasia,
  • Eastern oyster,
  • Crassostrea virginica,
  • Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Metaplasia is a well documented and deleterious effect of crude oil components on bivalved molluscs, including oysters. This reversible transformation of one cell type to another, is a common response to petroleum-product exposure in molluscs. It has been shown experimentally in previous work that eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) exposed to petroleum products will exhibit metaplasia of digestive tissues. Here we document for the first time that wild adult oysters inhabiting coastal waters in the northern Gulf of Mexico during and in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010) exhibited metaplasia in both ctenidia and digestive epithelia at significantly higher levels than geographic controls of C. virginica from Chesapeake Bay. Both ctenidial (respiratory and suspension feeding) and digestive tract tissues exhibited significantly higher frequencies of metaplasia in specimens from the Gulf of Mexico compared to those from Chesapeake Bay. Metaplasia included the loss of epithelial cilia, transformations of columnar epithelia, hyperplasia and reduction of ctenidial branches, and vacuolization of digestive tissues. Evidence for a reduction of metaplasia following the oil spill (2010-2013) is suggestive but equivocal.


Field work in Louisiana and Alabama was assisted by Annette Engel, Carrol Michael, and Caroline Dietz. Timothy Chung, Michael Hellman and Scott Elliott assisted with histological preparations. The authors acknowledge support from The Nova Southeastern University President’s Faculty Research and Development Grant No. 335317, and field support from the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program.

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© 2021 Roopnarine et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Citation Information
Deanne Roopnarine, Peter D. Roopnarine, Laurie C Anderson, Ji Hae Hwang, et al.. "Metaplasia of respiratory and digestive tissues in the Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill" PLOS One Vol. 16 Iss. 9 (2021) p. e0247739 ISSN: 1932-6203
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