Epidermal response of the Japanese eel to environmental stress

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Nonspecific responses of Japanese eels to environmental stress were monitored by assaying various lytic activities in eel epidermal extract. In fish maintained at 10 and 30 °C for up to 10 days, epidermal proteolytic activities due to serine protease and aminopeptidase and hemolytic activity varied within a 2-fold value range. Other proteolytic activities, due to cathepsins B and L, in the fish at 30 °C increased for up to 8 days and were 3.4 and 2.9-fold over those in fish maintained at 10 °C, respectively. This was accompanied by a 3.0-fold increase in bacteriolytic activity. Other forms of stress were exerted on the fishes by immersing them in a suspension of Flavobacterium columnare or giving them intraperitoneal injections of Edwardsiella tarda over 72 h. Although serine protease and aminopeptidase activities and hemolytic activity in the fishes exposed to F. columnare changed marginally, and were similar to those in the control fish, cathepsins B and L activities in the infected fishes increased more than 1.5-fold over their initial values over a 48 h period, along with a 4.5-fold increase in bacteriolytic activity. No marked change was detected in any of the lytic activities of the fishes exposed to E. tarda. These findings indicate that epidermal cathepsins B and L probably participate in bacteriolysis associated with Japanese eel skin and that their activities are elicited by environmental stimuli and may be an important nonspecific response of eels. Abbreviations: Cbz – carbobenzoxy; MCA – 4-methylcoumaryl-7-amide.

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