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© 2020, Cell Stress Society International. A major problem of storing and shipping eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) from the Northern Gulf of Mexico in summer and early fall is their elevated mortality. A study was therefore conducted to determine whether heat shocking the oysters or conditioning them to aerial exposure prior to harvest could reduce their mortality during cold storage. Increasing the levels of stress proteins in bivalves has been shown to reduce their mortality when exposed to additional stressors. In this study, the levels of heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) proteins and cumulative mortality during cold storage, out of water, of market-sized oysters were measured, in summer, following (1) sublethal heat shocks (41 °C, 1 h) in the laboratory or (2) 3 weeks to 6 weeks of daily exposures to air (0 h, ~ 10 h, or ~ 18 h) in the field. In total, four heat shock and two aerial exposure studies were done. Consistently, heat shocks or 6 weeks of daily aerial exposures increased HSP70 levels in oysters but did not reduce their mortality during cold storage. Three weeks of daily aerial exposure did not increase HSP70 levels and only marginally reduced mortality; a significant reduction in cumulative mortality occurred in one of the aerial exposure studies after 7 days of cold storage (0 h [26%], ~ 18 h [8%]). In conclusion, upregulation of HSP70 proteins or aerial exposure during grow-out was not an effective tool in reducing the mortality of oysters harvested in summer and held in cold storage.

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Cell Stress and Chaperones

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