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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 1987 Feb;65(2):189-98.

Effects of cortisol and growth hormone on osmoregulation in pre- and desmoltified coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch).


Salmonid species which undergo smoltification show a concurrent enhancement in saltwater (SW) osmoregulatory ability. This developmental change is marked by an increase in SW tolerance and gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity which appears to result, in part, from an increase in gill chloride cell density. Previous studies have suggested that cortisol and growth hormone (GH) may stimulate SW osmoregulatory mechanisms in salmonids. In this study, these hormones were examined for their ability to induce smoltification-associated osmoregulatory changes in pre- and desmoltified coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Cortisol treatment for 12 days increased gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity in presmolts and gill residual (Na+,K+-independent) ATPase activity in both groups. Chloride cell density in presmolt primary and secondary lamellae and in desmolt secondary lamellae was increased as well. The rise in plasma sodium levels in fish transferred to SW was reduced only in desmolts. Treatment with bovine GH for 12-13 days increased gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity in presmolts and in desmolts. However, GH treatment in either group did not increase gill residual ATPase activity or alter plasma sodium levels in SW-transferred animals. Gill chloride cell density in presmolts also was unaffected (desmolts were not examined). Thus, both cortisol and GH are partially able to produce changes similar to those observed during smoltification. The contrasting effects of these hormones on gill chloride cell density and gill residual ATPase activity suggest that cortisol may stimulate chloride cell proliferation and/or differentiation, whereas GH may act specifically to increase gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity.

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