Research Article: Optimal age of the donor graft tissue in relation to cultured pearl phenotypes in the mollusc, Pinctada margaritifera

Date Published: June 18, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Carole Blay, Serge Planes, Chin-Long Ky, Michael Schubert.


Ageing is defined as the progressive decline in tissue and organ functions over time. This study aims to evaluate the ageing effect on cultured pearl quality phenotypes (including size and quality traits) in the graft-recipient animal model: Pinctada margaritifera. For this, eight uniform grafting experiments were designed using two hatchery-produced pearl oyster families as donors, which were followed through time, between 7 and 30 months in age. For each age category, 20 donors were studied for each culture site giving a total of 2400 grafted oysters. Several phenotypic measurements were made: 1) donor family growth performance from shell size records, 2) pearl size and corresponding quality traits, and 3) expression of some genes related to biomineralization processes on both the mantle graft and on pearl sac tissues. Results showed that: 1) donor age has an impact on pearl size, with grafts coming from the youngest donors yielding the biggest pearls; and 2) grafts from donors between 12 and 18 months in age produced pearls of the highest quality (grade and surface quality), a result supported by an analysis where the level of expression for a panel of genes associated with biomineralization was greatest in donors within the 12 to 18 months age group. These results indicate that donors aged between 12 and 18 months have high potential for biomineralisation and nacre deposition, and likely produce larger and higher quality cultured pearls than older donors.

Partial Text

The process of ageing affects living organisms, from single cell yeasts to multi cellular animals and plants. Most evolutionary biologists define ageing as the age-dependent or age-progressive decline in tissue function over time [1–10]. In a graft context, it is tempting to speculate that donor age determines graft/ scion quality and further, the long-term function after transplantation. Cellular dynamism and more specifically cell age has been studied through numerous graft models. In human models, there is an upper age limit for the donor in many organ transplant centers. For example, some researchers reported that older livers had a higher rate of primary non-function, prolonged graft function recovery, and an increase in graft loss or mortality [11–15]. In the plant kingdom, the relative effect of age on tree metabolism revealed age-mediated controls for tree growth, which are particularly important in the first years of its life [16,17]. Another study examined biological and environmental factors that control root dynamics and function through the effect of root ageing on grapevines [18].

A total of 1086 pearls from the 8 experimental grafts were analyzed (1086 pearls from 2400 grafted oysters). We studied the impact of the age of donor oyster on the family shell growth, pearl size, pearl quality traits and relative gene expression in the graft and pearl sac tissue.

This study is the first to evaluate the impact of pearl oyster donor age on pearl size (including nacre weight and thickness) and on the expression levels for a panel of eight genes involved in shell biomineralisation in P. margaritifera. This study is also the first to examine the impact of pearl donor oysters aged less than 2 years on pearl quality traits. We found that donor age impacts the size of the pearl, pearl grade and surface quality. Donor age also impacts the relative gene expression ratio of aragonite-related genes (Pif-177, MSI60, Perline), calcite-related genes (Aspein, Shematrin5, Prismalin,) as well as the gene implicated in both layers (Nacrein) for graft tissue. For pearl sac tissues only calcite-related genes (Aspein, Shematrin5, Prismalin, Shematrin9) were impacted by donor age.




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