Manganese Interferes with Calcium, Perturbs ERK Signaling, and Produces Embryos with No Skeleton

Maria Carmela Roccheri, Annalisa Pinsino, Valeria Matranga, Caterina Costa

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Manganese (Mn) has been associated with embryo toxicity as it impairs differentiation of neural and skeletogenic cells in vertebrates. Nevertheless, information on the mechanisms operating at the cellular level remains scant. We took advantage of an amenable embryonic model to investigate the effects of Mn in biomineral formation. Sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus) embryos were exposed to Mn from fertilization, harvested at different developmental stages, and analyzed for their content in calcium (Ca), expression of skeletogenic genes, localization of germ layer markers, and activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). By optical and immunofluorescence microscopy, we found that Mn exposure produced embryos with no skeleton, by preventing the deposition of the triradiate calcitic spicules usually produced only by specialized mesoderm cells. On the contrary, ectoderm and endoderm differentiation was not impaired. Endogenous Ca content in whole embryos and its localization in Golgi regions of skeletogenic cells was strongly reduced, as measured by atomic absorption spectrometry and in vivo calcein labeling. Spicule-lacking embryos showed persistent ERK activation by immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting, contrary to the physiological oscillations observed in normal embryos. The expression of the skeletogenic genes, Pl-msp130 and Pl-sm30, was also differentially affected if compared with controls. Here, we showed for the first time the ability of Mn to interfere with Ca uptake and internalization into skeletogenic cells and demonstrate that Ca content regulates ERK activation/inactivation during sea urchin embryo morphogenesis. The use of Mn-exposed sea urchin embryos as a new model to study signaling pathways occurring during skeletogenesis will provide new insights into the mechanisms involved in Mn embryo toxicity and underlie the role of calcium in the biomineralization process in vertebrates
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalToxicological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2011


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology

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