Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - CACHE (CACHE: CAlcium in a CHanging Environment)

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic driven climate change is a global problem that will increasingly affect our world and it is essential that we train our future scientists in multidisciplinary approaches to enable them to tackle such complex problems. This ITN examines environmental calcium mobilisation and deposition in marine molluscs, species that have been highlighted as being particularly at risk under future climate change scenarios due to the acidification and warming of the World’s oceans. However, surprisingly little is known about how these animals regulate calcium to produce a shell, how these processes might be affected when the environmental conditions change and what the consequences are at the population level. This lack of knowledge significantly impacts on our abilities to accurately predict future biodiversity and the consequences for the commercial aquaculture industry. We aim to remedy this knowledge deficit with this ITN. We will take an in-depth comparative approach, using four of the EU’s most important commercially exploited molluscan species as model organisms and examine natural variation in shell production in combination with experimental manipulations to quantify adaptive potential and identify novel genes/proteins that underpin responses to environmental change. By embedding our projects in natural population surveys, we will gain an unprecedented understanding of the level of phenotypic plasticity that operates in bivalve shell production: an essential prerequisite for understanding their resilience to environmental perturbation. The resulting data will also be integrated into models aimed at predicting future aquaculture scenarios and will lead into efforts at biomimic exploitation for sustainable building materials, providing a genuinely innovative inter-sectoral approach, which will directly contribute to the EU Blue Economy and EU aspirations for sustainable opportunities via “Blue Growth”.

These are the overall project objectives as laid out in Annex I of the Grant Agreement:
1. Quantify natural variation in shell thickness and production across a latitudinal gradient and relate this to environmental parameters and the underlying population genetics.
2. Identify calcium sources (and constraints) for shell production and the energetic costs of shell production.
3. Identify levels of phenotypic flexibility in shell production using experimental manipulation and population genetic approaches and use the results to establish the impact of climate change on aquaculture production.
4. Identify genes and proteins involved in shell production and calcium regulation, with functional characterisation of selected genes.
5. Functionally characterise biomineralisation transport and regulatory mechanisms and development of biotechnology and biomimicry applications.
6. Exploit results with regard to predicting climate change impacts on the aquaculture industry.

OVERALL PROGRESS: The project is on track and there are no concerns with regard to delivery and achievement of Objectives.

Recruitment: All 10 ESRs have been successfully recruited. Two out of the four ERs are now in place. The second reporting period will see the employment of the final two ERs (See Appendices I-III).

Scientific progress and training: Most ESRs have now completed at least a year of training and hence this first reporting period has, for the ESRs, largely consisted of learning new techniques such as histology, development of Ussing chamber, measuring intracellular calcium, development of sequencing pipelines etc. and application of standard techniques to the project study species with optimisation where necessary. It has also seen the setting up of large experiments such as reciprocal transplantation, shell damage repair and collection of material from around Europe. The project is now moving into a phase of data analysis with the first publications going into press.

• Science Highlight 1: Alex Ventura (ESR 10) has demonstrated the considerable tolerance of mussel larvae to low pH and shown how normal larval growth is still achievable by some individuals even at pH as low as 7.6. This suggests great variability in individual responses to lowered pH seawater even within the same larval brood which may be a result of genetic or egg size/quality variability and may increase resilience of mussel populations. This represents the first step in the understanding of the adaptation potential of mussels to ocean acidification.
• Science Highlight 2: Proteomic analysis of the shell from the soft-shelled clam (Mya truncata) by Jaison Arivalagan (ESR 6) has revealed an unexpected complexity in shell matrix proteins. These are generally considered to be solely involved in biomineralisation, but our analysis reveals additional proteins which may play roles in mechanical elasticity, immune resilience and novel functions.
• Science Highlight 3: One paper published, one in review, ten in press with Marine Genomics.
• Dissemination Highlight 1: Special issue of the Marine Genomics journal coming out in early 2016 dedicated to the work of the CACHE network. All partners are contributing towards a total of 10 papers (8 original articles, one review and one position paper). The dedication of a journal issue purely to the work of junior researchers is unique. This represents a real coup for the project.
• Dissemination Highlight 2: ESR4 and ESR9 will develop and chair a special session on Biomineralization at the next ASLO (Association of the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) meeting in New Orleans. This will provide an excellent show case for the project.
• Training Highlights: Masterclasses in Science Communication and Art, Scientific Communication and English and Aquaculture and Stakeholder Engagement were all successfully completed.

Progress towards Deliverables: Six Deliverables were due during this reporting period. Three have been achieved (D4.1, D5.5, D9.1), with the other three on-going: D2.3 is delayed due to the late recruitment of ESR2; D5.1 is still on-going due to the unforeseen complexity in the dataset (we have identified a massive mollusc-specific expansion of the gene family under investigation) and finally D5.4 is delayed due to a rearrangement of ESR science priorities. Overall, the project is on target and we expect to meet all the Objectives laid out in Annex I.

Progress towards Milestones: There were no Milestones due in this period of the project, but progress is on track, given that most of the Deliverables are on time and on target.

As this period comprised the start-up of the project, there was significant time spent on recruitment and setting up the science projects. The first results are now coming through, but it is too early to gauge their impact at this stage. We have now recruited two ERs, based at RBINS, Belgium who will concentrate on developing reports more concerned with the socio-economic and societal aspects of the project. However, by the end of this reporting period they will only have been in place for a combined period of 3 months, so, again it is too early to report progress in this area. Highlights for science, dissemination and training are detailed above.

Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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