Open Access Research article

A moderate increase in ambient temperature modulates the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) spleen transcriptome response to intraperitoneal viral mimic injection

Tiago S Hori*, A Kurt Gamperl, Marije Booman, Gordon W Nash and Matthew L Rise

Author Affiliations

Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, A1C 5S7, NL, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:431  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-431

Published: 28 August 2012



Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) reared in sea-cages can experience large variations in temperature, and these have been shown to affect their immune function. We used the new 20K Atlantic cod microarray to investigate how a water temperature change which, simulates that seen in Newfoundland during the spring-summer (i.e. from 10°C to 16°C, 1°C increase every 5 days) impacted the cod spleen transcriptome response to the intraperitoneal injection of a viral mimic (polyriboinosinic polyribocytidylic acid, pIC).


The temperature regime alone did not cause any significant increases in plasma cortisol levels and only minor changes in spleen gene transcription. However, it had a considerable impact on the fish spleen transcriptome response to pIC [290 and 339 significantly differentially expressed genes between 16°C and 10°C at 6 and 24 hours post-injection (HPI), respectively]. Seventeen microarray-identified transcripts were selected for QPCR validation based on immune-relevant functional annotations. Fifteen of these transcripts (i.e. 88%), including DHX58, STAT1, IRF7, ISG15, RSAD2 and IκBα, were shown by QPCR to be significantly induced by pIC.


The temperature increase appeared to accelerate the spleen immune transcriptome response to pIC. We found 41 and 999 genes differentially expressed between fish injected with PBS vs. pIC at 10°C and sampled at 6HPI and 24HPI, respectively. In contrast, there were 656 and 246 genes differentially expressed between fish injected with PBS vs. pIC at 16°C and sampled at 6HPI and 24HPI, respectively. Our results indicate that the modulation of mRNA expression of genes belonging to the NF-κB and type I interferon signal transduction pathways may play a role in controlling temperature-induced changes in the spleen’s transcript expression response to pIC. Moreover, interferon effector genes such as ISG15 and RSAD2 were differentially expressed between fish injected with pIC at 10°C vs. 16°C at 6HPI. These results substantially increase our understanding of the genes and molecular pathways involved in the negative impacts of elevated ambient temperature on fish health, and may also be valuable to our understanding of how accelerated global climate change could impact cold-water marine finfish species.