A serious disease of the ascidian Halocynthia roretzi has been spread extensively among Korean aquaculture sites. To reveal the cause of the disease and establish a monitoring system for it, we constructed a cDNA microarray spotted with 2,688 cDNAs derived from H. roretzi hemocyte cDNA libraries to detect genes differentially expressed in hemocytes between diseased and non-diseased ascidians. We detected 21 genes showing increased expression and 16 genes showing decreased expression in hemocytes from diseased ascidians compared with those from non-diseased ascidians. RT-PCR analyses confirmed that the expression levels of genes encoding astacin, lysozyme, ribosomal protein PO, and ubiquitin-ribosomal protein L40e fusion protein were increased in hemocytes from diseased ascidians, while those of genes encoding HSP40, HSP70, fibronectin, carboxypeptidase and lactate dehydrogenase were decreased. These genes were expressed not only in hemocytes but also in various other tissues in ascidians. Furthermore, the expression of glutathione-S transferase omega, which is known to be up-regulated in H. roretzi hemocytes during inflammatory responses, was strongly increased in hemocytes from diseased ascidians. These gene expression profiles suggest that immune and inflammatory reactions occur in the hemocytes of diseased ascidians. These genes will be good markers for detecting and monitoring this disease of ascidians in Korean aquaculture sites.
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