Hypoxia in aquatic invertebrates: Occurrence and phenotypic and molecular responses

Yoseop LEE, Eunjin BYEON, Duck-Hyun KIM, Piotr MASZCZYK, Minghua WANG, Shiu Sun Rudolf WU, Hee-Do JEUNG, Un-Ki HWANG, Jae-Seong LEE

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Global deoxygenation in aquatic systems is an increasing environmental problem, and substantial oxygen loss has been reported. Aquatic animals have been continuously exposed to hypoxic environments, so-called "dead zones," in which severe die-offs among organisms are driven by low-oxygen events. Multiple studies of hypoxia exposure have focused on in vivo endpoints, metabolism, oxidative stress, and immune responses in aquatic invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans, echinoderms, and cnidarians. They have shown that acute and chronic exposure to hypoxia induces significant decreases in locomotion, respiration, feeding, growth, and reproduction rates. Also, several studies have examined the molecular responses of aquatic invertebrates, such as anaerobic metabolism, reactive oxygen species induction, increased antioxidant enzymes, immune response mechanisms, regulation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1α) genes, and differently expressed hemoglobin/hemocyanin. The genetic basis of those molecular responses involves HIF-1α pathway genes, which are highly expressed in hypoxic conditions. However, the identification of HIF-1α-related genes and understanding of their applications in some aquatic invertebrates remain inadequate. Also, some species of crustaceans, rotifers, sponges, and ctenophores that lack HIF-1α are thought to have alternative defense mechanisms to cope with hypoxia, but those factors are still unclear. This review covers the formation of hypoxia in aquatic environments and the various adverse effects of hypoxia on aquatic invertebrates. The limitations of current hypoxia research and genetic information about the HIF-1α pathway are also discussed. Finally, this paper explains the underlying processes of the hypoxia response and presents an integrated program for research about the molecular mechanisms of hypoxic stresses in aquatic invertebrates. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106685
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Early online dateSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


Lee, Y., Byeon, E., Kim, D.-H., Maszczyk, P., Wang, M., Wu, R. S. S., Jeung, H.-D., Hwang, U.-K., & Lee, J.-S. (2023). Hypoxia in aquatic invertebrates: Occurrence and phenotypic and molecular responses. Aquatic Toxicology, 263, Article 106685. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquatox.2023.106685


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