Open Access Open Badges Research article

Differentially expressed proteins in the skin mucus of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) upon natural infection with Vibrio anguillarum

Binoy Rajan, Jep Lokesh, Viswanath Kiron and Monica F Brinchmann*

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Biosciences and Aquaculture, University of Nordland, Bodø 8049, Norway

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:103  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-103

Published: 14 May 2013



Vibriosis caused by V. anguillarum is a commonly encountered disease in Atlantic cod farms and several studies indicate that the initiation of infection occurs after the attachment of the pathogen to the mucosal surfaces (gut, skin and gills) of fish. Therefore it is necessary to investigate the role of different mucosal components in fish upon V. anguillarum infection. The present study has two parts; in the first part we analyzed the differential expression of skin mucus proteins from Atlantic cod naturally infected with V. anguillarum using two dimensional gel electrophoresis coupled with mass spectrometry. In the second part, a separate bath challenge experiment with V. anguillarum was conducted to assess the mRNA levels of the genes in skin tissue, corresponding to the selected proteins identified in the first part.


Comparative proteome analysis of skin mucus of cod upon natural infection with V. anguillarum revealed key immune relevant proteins like calpain small subunit 1, glutathione-S-transferase omega 1, proteasome 26S subunit, 14-kDa apolipoprotein, beta 2-tubulin, cold inducible RNA binding protein, malate dehydrogenase 2 (mitochondrial) and type II keratin that exhibited significant differential expression. Additionally a number of protein spots which showed large variability amongst individual fish were also identified. Some of the proteins identified were mapped to the immunologically relevant JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinases) signalling pathway that is connected to cellular events associated with pathogenesis. A bath challenge experiment with V. anguillarum showed differential expression of beta 2-tubulin, calpain small subunit 1, cold inducible RNA binding protein, flotillin1, and glutathione S-transferase omega 1 transcripts in the skin tissue of cod during early stages of infection.


Differentially expressed proteins identified in the cod skin mucus point towards their possible involvement in V. anguillarum pathogenesis. The role of some of these proteins in vibriosis in cod described in this paper can be considered unconventional with respect to their established functions in higher vertebrates. Based on the differential expression of these proteins they are possibly important components of fish defence against bacteria and innate immunity at large. The feasibility of utilizing these proteins/genes as markers of bacterial infection or stress in cod needs to be explored further.

Comparative proteome; Skin mucosa; Atlantic cod; Vibrio anguillarum; Bath challenge