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BMC Immunol. 2011 Dec 28;12:69. doi: 10.1186/1471-2172-12-69.

Impact of acute stress on antimicrobial polypeptides mRNA copy number in several tissues of marine sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).

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Department of Biotechnology and Molecular Sciences, University of Insubria, Via JH Dunant, 3 - 21100 Varese, Italy.



In comparison to higher vertebrates, fish are thought to rely heavily on innate immune system for initial protection against pathogen invasion because their acquired immune system displays a considerably poor immunological memory, and short-lived secondary response. The endogenous antimicrobial polypeptides (AMPPs) directly and rapidly killing pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses are included within the realm of innate defenses. In addition to piscidins, AMPPs that in recent years have been shown to be commonly linked to innate defense, are histones and their polypeptide fragments, and peptides derived from the respiratory protein hemoglobin. There is evidence that a number of stresses lead to significant regulation of AMPPs and thus their monitoring could be a highly sensitive measure of health status and risk of an infectious disease outbreak, which is a major impediment to the continued success of virtually all aquaculture enterprises and is often the most significant cause of economic losses.


We firstly isolated and deposited in Genbank database the cDNA sequences encoding for hemoglobin-β-like protein (Hb-LP) [GeneBank: JN410659], H2B histone-like protein 1 (HLP1) GenBank: JN410660], and HLP2 [GenBank: JN410661]. The "de novo" prediction of the three-dimensional structures for each protein is presented. Phylogenetic trees were constructed on Hb-LP, HLP1, and HLP2 sequences of sea bass and those of other teleost, avian, reptiles, amphibian and mammalian species. We then used real time RT-PCR technology to monitor for the first time in sea bass, dynamic changes in mRNA copy number of Hb-LP, HLP1, HLP2, and dicentracin in gills, skin, eyes, stomach and proximal intestine in response to acute crowding/confinement stress. We showed that acute crowding stress induces an increase in the expression levels of the aforementioned genes, in gills and skin of sea bass, but not in other tissues, and that this expression patterns are not always rapidly reversed upon re-exposure to normal conditions.


The higher expression of the four target genes in gills and skin of sea bass suggests that this AMPP represents a first and immediate line of defense in combating pathogens and stressors since these tissues constitute the first physiological barriers of the animal.

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