Manganese (Mn) is one of the most abundant elements on earth, particularly in the soft bottom sediments of the oceans. As a micronutrient Mn is essential in the metabolic processes of organisms. However, at high concentrations the metal becomes a neurotoxin with well-documented effects. As a consequence of euthrophication, manganese is released from bottom sediments of coastal areas and the Norway lobsters, Nephrops norvegicus, can experience high levels of bioavailable Mn(2+). Here, we present the first report showing that Mn also affects several fundamental processes in the mobilisation and activation of immunoactive haemocytes. When N. norvegicus was exposed to a realistic [Mn(2+)] of 20 mg l(-1) for 10 days 24.1 microg ml(-1) was recorded in the haemolymph. At this concentration the total haemocyte count was reduced by ca. 60%. By using BrdU as a tracer for cell division, it was shown that the proliferation rate in the haematopoietic tissue did not increase, despite the haemocytepenia. A gene coding for a Runt-domain protein, known to be involved in maturation of immune active haemocytes in a variety of organisms, was identified also in haemocytes of N. norvegicus. The expression of this gene was >40% lower in the Mn-exposed lobsters as judged by using a cDNA probe and the in situ hybridisation technique. In response to non-self molecules, like lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the granular haemocytes of arthropods are known to degranulate and thereby release and activate the prophenoloxidase system, necessary for their immune defence. A degranulation assay, tested on isolated granular haemocytes, showed about 75% lower activity in the Mn-exposed lobsters than that for the unexposed. Furthermore, using an enzymatic assay, the activation per se of prophenoloxidase by LPS was found blocked in the Mn-exposed lobsters. Taken together, these results show that Mn exposure suppressed fundamental immune mechanisms of Norway lobsters. This identifies a potential harm that also exists for other organisms and should be considered when increasing the distribution of bioavailable Mn, as has been done through recently introduced applications of the metal.
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