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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gene expression analyses of immune responses in Atlantic salmon during early stages of infection by salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) revealed bi-phasic responses coinciding with the copepod-chalimus transition

Tariku Markos Tadiso1*, Aleksei Krasnov2, Stanko Skugor2, Sergey Afanasyev23, Ivar Hordvik1 and Frank Nilsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Thormølhensgate 55, N-5020 Bergen, Norway

2 Nofima, Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, P.O. Box 5010, Ås NO-1430, Norway

3 Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, M. Toreza av. 44, St Petersburg, 194223, Russia

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-141

Published: 7 March 2011

Abstract

Background

The salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis Krøyer), an ectoparasitic copepod with a complex life cycle causes significant losses in salmon aquaculture. Pesticide treatments against the parasite raise environmental concerns and their efficacy is gradually decreasing. Improvement of fish resistance to lice, through biological control methods, needs better understanding of the protective mechanisms. We used a 21 k oligonucleotide microarray and RT-qPCR to examine the time-course of immune gene expression changes in salmon skin, spleen, and head kidney during the first 15 days after challenge, which encompassed the copepod and chalimus stages of lice development.

Results

Large scale and highly complex transcriptome responses were found already one day after infection (dpi). Many genes showed bi-phasic expression profiles with abrupt changes between 5 and 10 dpi (the copepod-chalimus transitions); the greatest fluctuations (up- and down-regulation) were seen in a large group of secretory splenic proteases with unknown roles. Rapid sensing was witnessed with induction of genes involved in innate immunity including lectins and enzymes of eicosanoid metabolism in skin and acute phase proteins in spleen. Transient (1-5 dpi) increase of T-cell receptor alpha, CD4-1, and possible regulators of lymphocyte differentiation suggested recruitment of T-cells of unidentified lineage to the skin. After 5 dpi the magnitude of transcriptomic responses decreased markedly in skin. Up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinases in all studied organs suggested establishment of a chronic inflammatory status. Up-regulation of putative lymphocyte G0/G1 switch proteins in spleen at 5 dpi, immunoglobulins at 15 dpi; and increase of IgM and IgT transcripts in skin indicated an onset of adaptive humoral immune responses, whereas MHCI appeared to be down-regulated.

Conclusions

Atlantic salmon develops rapid local and systemic reactions to L. salmonis, which, however, do not result in substantial level of protection. The dramatic changes observed after 5 dpi can be associated with metamorphosis of copepod, immune modulation by the parasite, or transition from innate to adaptive immune responses.