Growth hormone (GH) treatment acts on the endocrine and autocrine/paracrine GH/IGF-axis and on TNF-α expression in bony fish pituitary and immune organs

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Abstract

There exist indications that the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis may play a role in fish immune regulation, and that interactions occur via tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α at least in mammals, but no systematic data exist on potential changes in GH, IGF-I, IGF-II, GH receptor (GHR) and TNF-α expression after GH treatment. Thus, we investigated in the Nile tilapia the influence of GH injections by real-time qPCR at different levels of the GH/IGF-axis (brain, pituitary, peripheral organs) with special emphasis on the immune organs head kidney and spleen. Endocrine IGF-I served as positive control for GH treatment efficiency. Basal TNF-α gene expression was detected in all organs investigated with the expression being most pronounced in brain. Two consecutive intraperitoneal injections of bream GH elevated liver IGF-I mRNA and plasma IGF-I concentration. Also liver IGF-II mRNA and TNF-α were increased while the GHR was downregulated. In brain, no change occurred in the expression levels of all genes investigated. GH gene expression was exclusively detected in the pituitary where the GH injections elevated both GH and IGF-I gene expression. In the head kidney, GH upregulated IGF-I mRNA to an even higher extent than liver IGF-I while IGF-II and GHR gene expressions were not affected. Also in the spleen, no change occurred in GHR mRNA, however, IGF-I and IGF-II mRNAs were increased. In correlation, in situ hybridisation showed a markedly higher amount of IGF-I mRNA in head kidney and spleen after GH injection. In both immune tissues, TNF-α gene expression showed a trend to decrease after GH treatment. The stimulation of IGF-I and also partially of IGF-II expression in the fish immune organs by GH indicates a local role of the IGFs in immune organ regulation while the differential changes in TNF-α support the in mammals postulated interactions with the GH/IGF-axis which demand for further investigations.

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