Responses of the Mediterranean seagrass Cymodocea nodosa to combined temperature and salinity stress at the ionomic, transcriptomic, ultrastructural and photosynthetic levels

Soultana Tsioli, Maria Koutalianou, Georgios A. Gkafas, Athanasios Exadactylos, Vasilis Papathanasiou, Christos I. Katsaros, Sotiris Orfanidis, Frithjof Kuepper* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The Little Neptune grass Cymodocea nodosa is a key seagrass species in the Mediterranean Sea, forming extensive and patchy meadows in shallow coastal and transitional ecosystems. In such habitats, high temperatures and salinities, separately and in combination, can be significant stressors in the context of climate change, particularly during heatwave events, and seawater desalination plant effluents.
Despite well-documented negative, macroscopic effects, the underlying cellular and molecular processes of the combined effects of increasing temperature and salinities have remained largely elusive in C. nodosa – which are addressed by the present study. High salinity and high temperature, alone and in combination, affected ion equilibrium in the plant cells. Non-synonymous mutations marked the transcriptomic response to salinity and temperature stress at loci related to osmotic stress. Cell structure, especially the nucleus, chloroplasts, mitochondria and organization of the MT cytoskeleton, was also altered. Both temperature and salinity stress negatively affected photosynthetic activity as evidenced by ΔF/Fm’, following an antagonistic interaction type.
Overall, this study showed that all biological levels investigated were strongly affected by temperature and salinity stress, however, with the latter having more severe effects. The results have implications for the operation of desalination plants and for assessing the impacts of marine heat waves.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105512
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date15 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

We are particularly grateful to David E. Salt and John M.C. Danku (University of Aberdeen, now at the University of Nottingham) for providing facilities and guidance for the ionomics work within the framework of this study. This research was funded by the European Commission (European Social Fund – ESF; grant no. 375425) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program “Education and Lifelong Learning” of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) - Research Funding Program: THALES - Investing in knowledge society through the European Social Funds (Project Acronym: MANTOLES). We would also like to thank the TOTAL Foundation (Project “Diversity of brown algae in the Eastern Mediterranean”), the European Commission under its Horizon 2021 Research and Innovation Programme (grants ZEROBRINE, grant agreement No. 730390, and WATERMINING, grant agreement No. 869474) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council for their Supplort to FCK (program Oceans 2025 – WP 4.5 and grants NE/D521522/1 and NE/J023094/1). The MASTS pooling initiative (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, funded by the Scottish Funding Council and contributing institutions; grant reference HR09011) is gratefully acknowledged.

Data Availability Statement

The data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, Frithjof C. Küpper, upon request.


  • Chlorophyll
  • Cymodocea
  • cytoskeleton
  • Little Neptune grass
  • photosynthesis
  • transcriptome
  • ultrastructure


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