The mud crab, Scylla paramamosain Estampador, 1949, is a widely farmed commercial species in the South-East coastal areas of China. The crabs are captured and placed in a water-free container for further transportation. The long-time air exposure makes the crabs suffer from oxidative stress, triggering cell apoptosis and leading to the crab’s death. In this study, the homologue of the apoptosis regulator BAX was firstly identified in S. paramamosain and named as SpBAX. The coding region of SpBAX yielded a polypeptide of 278 amino acids, consisting of the defining motif of the BAXs family including Bcl-2 homologous BH1, BH2, BH3 regions and a transmembrane (TM) domain. Subcellular prediction suggested that SpBAX was located in the cytoplasm. The three-dimensional structure showed that SpBAX contained 8 helical regions. Two central α-helices (α5 and α6) flanked on one side by α3 and α4, and on the other side by α1, α2 and α7, which showed the same structure as BAXs in mammals. The highest expression level of SpBAX was detected in hepatopancreas tissue. The expression level of SpBAX was up-regulated in 12 h in hepatopancreas and in 24 h in haemocytes after air exposure. Meanwhile, a flow cytometry assay revealed that the proportion of apoptotic haemocytes exceeded 65% after air exposure for 36 h, showing a significant difference with the control group. These results indicated that the cloned SpBAX might be involved in the response to air exposure stress by causing cell apoptosis. This study may thus be helpful to clarify the mechanisms of the air-exposure stress response in the mud crab.
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