Acute stress response on Atlantic salmon: a time-course study of the effects on plasma metabolites, mucus cortisol levels, and head kidney transcriptome profile
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionFish Physiology & Biochemistry. 2022, . 10.1007/s10695-022-01163-4
Farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) welfare and performance can be strongly influenced by stress episodes caused by handling during farming practices. To better understand the changes occurring after an acute stress response, we exposed a group of Atlantic salmon parr to an acute stressor, which involved netting and transferring fish to several new holding tanks. We describe a time-course response to stress by sampling parr in groups before (T0) and 10, 20, 30, 45, 60, 120, 240, 300, and 330 min post-stress. A subgroup of fish was also subjected to the same stressor for a second time to assess their capacity to respond to the same challenge again within a short timeframe (ReStressed). Fish plasma was assessed for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and ions levels. Mucus cortisol levels were analyzed and compared with the plasma cortisol levels. At 5 selected time points (T0, 60, 90, 120, 240, and ReStressed), we compared the head kidney transcriptome profile of 10 fish per time point. The considerably delayed increase of ACTH in the plasma (60 min post-stress), and the earlier rise of cortisol levels (10 min post-stress), suggests that cortisol release could be triggered by more rapidly responding factors, such as the sympathetic system. This hypothesis may be supported by a high upregulation of several genes involved in synaptic triggering, observed both during the first and the second stress episodes. Furthermore, while the transcriptome profile showed few changes at 60 min post-stress, expression of genes in several immune-related pathways increased markedly with each successive time point, demonstrating the role of the immune system in fish coping capacity. Although many of the genes discussed in this paper are still poorly characterized, this study provides new insights regarding the mechanisms occurring during the stress response of salmon parr and may form the basis for a useful guideline on timing of sampling protocols.