Salinity change and cell volume: The response of tissues from the estuarine mussel Geukensia demissa

Douglas S. Neufeld, Stephen H. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The response of cell volume to changes in external salinity was assessed in four tissues (gill, mantle, hemolymph cells and ventricle) of the estuarine mussel Geukensia demissa by using one or more of the following three indicators of cell volume response: changes in cell dimensions, cell water space and cell solute content. All three techniques indicated that short-term volume regulation was generally absent from gill tissue. Lateral cell height in gills, measured using differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy, increased by approximately 20 % after an abrupt exposure to reduced salinity (60 % artificial sea water, ASW). There was significant variability in the observance of a regulatory volume decrease (RVD) subsequent to the initial swelling; cells remained swollen for 1 h after low- salinity exposure in two-thirds of the trials, while there was a return of cell volume towards control values in the remaining one-third of the trials. Lateral cell height increased linearly when salinity was gradually decreased from 100 to 60 % ASW over 135 min. Cell height then returned to control values when the salinity was abruptly returned to 100 % ASW, indicating that an RVD was not elicited by a slow change in salinity of the type normally encountered by estuarine mussels. Cumulative cell water space in gills increased by 47 % after exposure to 60 % ASW and the cells remained swollen for at least 4 h, returning to control values when gills were returned to 100 % ASW. Consistent with the overall lack of an RVD, there was only a small decrease (approximately 5 %) in cumulative osmolyte content (primarily taurine, betaine and K+) after 4 h in 60 % ASW. Decreases in both cell water space and osmolyte content after 3 weeks of acclimation to 60 % ASW indicated a long-term RVD of approximately 60 %. Individual cells in the mantle epithelium also generally lacked an RVD in response to lowered salinity. Both abrupt and gradual decreases in salinity caused an increase in mantle cell height to a maximum of 25-30 %, and cell height returned to the control height when salinity was abruptly returned to 100 % ASW. Corresponding with the lack of an RVD in individual mantle cells, there was no change in solute content of the mantle tissue after 4 h of exposure to low salinity. The response of the volume of spherical hemolymph cells to 1 h of abrupt exposure to low salinity, calculated from measured cell diameters, likewise indicated that an RVD is generally lacking in these hemolymph cells. In the ventricle, however, there was a significant decrease in amino acid and betaine content after 4 h of exposure to low salinity, suggesting tissue-specific variability in the cellular response to salinity change. The consistent lack of a short- term RVD in many tissues may serve to avoid large energetic expenditures associated with repeated volume regulation in the face of the frequent, short-term changes in salinity encountered by estuarine mussels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1619-1630
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1996


  • Geukensia demissa
  • betaine
  • cell volume regulation
  • gill
  • mantle
  • taurine
  • ventricle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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