In the oyster Crassostrea virginica, the organization of the gill allows bidirectional particle transport where a dorsal gill tract directs particles meant to be ingested while a ventral tract collects particles intended to be rejected as pseudofeces. Previous studies showed that the transport of particles in both tracts is mediated by mucus. Consequently, we hypothesized that the nature and/or the quantity of mucosal proteins present in each tract is likely to be different. Using endoscopy-aided micro-sampling of mucus from each tract followed by multidimensional protein identification technologies, and in situ hybridization, a high spatial resolution mapping of the oyster gill proteome was generated. Results showed the presence in gill mucus of a wide range of molecules involved in non-self recognition and interactions with microbes. Mucus composition was different between the two tracts, with mucus from the ventral tract shown to be rich in mucin-like proteins, providing an explanation of its high viscosity, while mucus from the dorsal tract was found to be enriched in mannose-binding proteins, known to be involved in food particle binding and selection. Overall, this study generated high-resolution proteomes for C. virginica gill mucus and demonstrated that the contrasting functions of the two pathways present on oyster gills are associated with significant differences in their protein makeup.

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