The sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus is considered a good candidate for aquaculture, but bacterial diseases are a major challenge in culture conditions. The innate immunological defenses of L. variegatus to bacterial challenges were assessed through hematology parameters, in vitro phagocytosis, lysozyme activity and total plasma protein concentrations in cell-free coelomic fluid. Adult sea urchins were inoculated with Microccocus lysodeikticus, Escherichia coli and Vibrio parahaemolyticus in the cavity coelomic. Filtrated and sterile seawater (FSW) injected and non-injected sea urchins were used as control groups. Righting time, external aspects and behavior of sea urchins were evaluated. Twenty-four hours post-inoculation, we found an increase in the population of colorless spherule cells (CLS), phagocytosis, and humoral responses in sea urchins challenged by bacterial inoculations. Righting time was not affected by the treatments and apparent external signs of disease were not observed at least during 96h post-inoculation. The immunological system of L. variegatus quickly eliminated pathogenic microorganisms. CLS and lysozyme activity cooperate in the immune defenses of L. variegatus, showing an extraordinary efficiency for adjusting the immune defenses under stress caused by microbes. We recommend that the cellular and humoral markers serve as routine tests to monitor health status in sea urchins.
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