Immunity in Molluscs: Recognition and Effector Mechanisms, with a Focus on Bivalvia

  • Marco GerdolEmail author
  • Marta Gomez-Chiarri
  • Maria G. Castillo
  • Antonio Figueras
  • Graziano Fiorito
  • Rebeca Moreira
  • Beatriz Novoa
  • Alberto Pallavicini
  • Giovanna Ponte
  • Katina Roumbedakis
  • Paola Venier
  • Gerardo R. Vasta


The study of molluscan immune systems, in particular those of bivalve molluscs (e.g., clams, oysters, scallops, mussels), has experienced great growth in recent decades, mainly due to the needs of a rapidly growing aquaculture industry to manage the impacts of disease and the wider application of -omic tools to this diverse group of invertebrate organisms. Several unique aspects of molluscan immune systems highlighted in this chapter include the importance of feeding behavior and mucosal immunity, the discovery of unique levels of diversity in immune genes, and experimental indication of transgenerational immune priming. The development of comparative functional studies using natural and selectively bred disease-resistant strains, together with the potential but yet to be fully developed application of gene-editing technologies, should provide exciting insights into the functional relevance of immune gene family expansion and molecular diversification in bivalves. Other areas of bivalve immunity that deserve further study include elucidation of the process of hematopoiesis, the full characterization of hemocyte subpopulations, and the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying immune priming. While the most important aspects of the immune system of the largest group of molluscs, gastropods (e.g., snails and slugs), are discussed in detail in Chap. 12, we also briefly outline the most distinctive features of the immune system of another fascinating group of marine molluscs, cephalopods, which include invertebrate animals with extraordinary morphological and behavioral complexity.


Mollusca Bivalves Oyster Mussel Scallop Clam Cephalopods Aquaculture Lectins Opsonization Pathogen recognition Immune signaling Antimicrobial peptides Apoptosis Complement system Immune priming Phagocytosis Prophenoloxidase Neuroendocrine immunomodulation 



AF, BN, and RM acknowledge support from the projects AGL2015-65705-R (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain) and IN607B 2016/12 (Consellería de Economía, Emprego e Industria (GAIN), Xunta de Galicia). AF, BN, RM, MG, PV, and AP acknowledge support from the project VIVALDI (678589) (EU H2020). MG and AP acknowledge support from the FRA2015 funding program from the University of Trieste.

GRV acknowledges support from grants IOS-1656720, IOS-1050518, IOB-0618409, MCB-0077928, and IOS-0822257 from the National Science Foundation, and grant R01GM070589 from the National Institutes of Health, USA. MGC acknowledges support from USDA AFRI grants 2015-67016-22942 and 2016-67016-24905.

KR is supported through a scholarship of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI), “Entity and diversity of parasite load and his effects on the reproductive status and growth in cephalopod mollusks.” GP is supported by a RITMARE Flagship project (MIUR and Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn – SZN).

The authors are grateful to S Salger, EM Roberts and T Modak, University of Rhode Island, for their contributions to the text and figures, to Samuele Greco for his contribution in the preparation of Fig. 19, to Ricardo Castillo for his contribution in the preparation of Fig. 20, and to Elena Baldascino for assistance in the identification of putative immune-related genes in the octopus transcriptome. Access to the octopus transcriptome data was kindly provided by Dr. R Sanges and Prof. G Fiorito (SZN).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Gerdol
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marta Gomez-Chiarri
    • 3
  • Maria G. Castillo
    • 4
  • Antonio Figueras
    • 5
  • Graziano Fiorito
    • 6
  • Rebeca Moreira
    • 5
  • Beatriz Novoa
    • 5
  • Alberto Pallavicini
    • 1
    • 7
  • Giovanna Ponte
    • 6
  • Katina Roumbedakis
    • 8
    • 9
  • Paola Venier
    • 10
  • Gerardo R. Vasta
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Trieste, Department of Life SciencesTriesteItaly
  2. 2.University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Institute of Marine and Environmental TechnologyBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.University of Rhode Island, Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary ScienceKingstonUSA
  4. 4.New Mexico State University, Department of BiologyLas CrucesUSA
  5. 5.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC)VigoSpain
  6. 6.Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Department of Biology and Evolution of Marine OrganismsNaplesItaly
  7. 7.University of Trieste, Department of Life SciencesTriesteItaly
  8. 8.Università degli Studi del Sannio, Dipartimento di Scienze e TecnologieBeneventoItaly
  9. 9.Association for Cephalopod Research ‘CephRes’NaplesItaly
  10. 10.University of Padova, Department of BiologyPaduaItaly

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