Eradication of invasive quagga and zebra mussels using engineered disseminated neoplasia
Like humans and most other animal species, marine bivalves can develop cancer. Malignant hemic neoplasia (HN) --
analogous in some ways to leukemia in humans -- is lethal to mollusks and has been studied extensively for its impact
on species of commercial interest. Although HN was characterized as a pathological condition in mollusks several
decades ago, it has only been revealed recently that some large-scale bivalve die-offs are caused by horizontal
mollusk-to-mollusk direct transmission of cancerous HN cells referred to as disseminated neoplasia (DN). Using
cutting-edge methods of cell culture, genetic engineering, and genomic modification, we propose to engineer normal
quagga and zebra mussel hemocytes into "induced" DN cells (iDNCs) that can be used to transmit and foster lethal
cancer into populations of these invasive species in open waters.
To accomplish this goal, in the first year of this project we propose to: 1) Establish a facility for the maintenance of live
zebra and quagga mussels at Biomilab and determine methods and conditions for extended culture of explanted and
dissociated mussel cells, 2) Test methods for the genetic modification of cultured mussel cells and explore the
transplantation/engraftment and survival of cells to live mussels, and 3) Complete characterization of target genes
and gene products for use in genomic modification and begin construction of DNA/RNA-based reagents for use.
If the objectives of year 1 are satisfactory, we propose to build on these results in the second year to: 4) Convert
dreissenid mussel hemocytes to iDNCs and establish methods for long-term culture, expansion, and cryopreservation,
and 5) Engraft iDNCs to live invasive mussels and analyze engraftment, dissemination, and toxicity.
Using the strategy described, we hope to create a reagent that can eliminate quagga and zebra mussels from infested
waterways efficiently, economically, and with essentially no risk to other marine species, non-aquat
Need and Benefit
Currently no method exists for the eradication of invasive mussels from large reservoirs and lakes. Invasive mussels
are prolific breeders and filter feeders that can dramatically alter the habitat for native species. Mussel settlement on
Reclamation infrastructure is of specific concern, as the mussels can prevent the function of water conveyance
equipment and hydropower production and significantly increase the cost of operation and maintenance. This
research project aims to develop a method for the control or eradication of invasive mussels from reservoirs and
lakes. If successful, this method could be utilized at all Reclamation waters impacted by mussels because the method
would not be impacted by water chemistry.
-Reclamation currently has a robust invasive mussel early detection and research program. Despite years of research,
eradication of mussels from open water is still an area where additional research is needed. Mussels live in complex
ecosystems that are home to a myriad of other species that are physiologically and genetically similar to the mussels.
Developing control methods that target invasive mussels without harming non-target species has proven to be
problematic. Many of the treatments available for mussels are not economically feasible for use in larger water bodies.
-The use of suppressive agents that are self-perpetuating and communicable to all invasive mussels within a
waterway by vertical or horizontal transmission are one of the few options that are economically and technically
feasible. The method proposed in this research proposal has the potential to overcome the current target specificity
and cost issues.
Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.
Bureau of Reclamation Review
The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.
Development of Dreissenid Mussel Engineered Disseminated Neoplasia (final, PDF, 4.4MB)
By Steve Suhr, Marie-Claude Senut, Sherri Pucherelli, Yale Passamaneck, Jacque Keele
Report completed on September 30, 2022