Environmental differences in hemoglobin gene expression in the hydrothermal vent tubeworm, Ridgeia piscesae

Susan L. Carney, Jason F. Flores, Kathryn M. Orobona, David A. Butterfield, Charles R. Fisher, Stephen W. Schaeffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Ridgeia piscesae, the siboglinid tubeworm inhabiting the hydrothermal vents of the northeast Pacific Juan de Fuca Ridge, displays a wide range of microhabitat-specific, genetically indistinguishable phenotypes. Local microhabitat conditions are hypothesized to play a role in the differentiation of R. piscesae phenotypes. Extracellular hemoglobins serve to connect the tubeworm and the surrounding vent fluid, binding environmental sulfide and oxygen for transport to endosymbionts that use the chemical energy for carbon fixation. Because hemoglobin is essential for this symbiosis, we examined its expression in two of the most extreme R. piscesae phenotypes at two levels: the mRNA encoding the globin subunits and the whole molecules in coelomic and vascular fluids. Levels of gene expression were up to 12 times greater in short-fat R. piscesae from higher temperature, sulfide chimney environments compared to long-skinny animals from a low temperature, diffuse flow basalt habitat. Gene expression levels were consistent with the relative concentrations of hemoglobin molecules in the vascular and coelomic fluids. Up to a 20-fold variation in globin gene expression was detected between the same phenotype from different sites. These data demonstrate that local environmental factors influence not only phenotype but gene expression and its resulting physiological outcome within this unique species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-337
Number of pages12
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology


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