We report the differential expression of various genes related to the regulation of the innate immune responses, including pro-inflammatory (IL-1β1, IL-8, TNF-α1, TNF-α2) and immune-suppressing (IL-10) cytokines, interferon-induced Mx-1 protein, enzymes regulating nitric oxide (inducible nitric oxide synthase, arginase-2) and eicosanoid (COX-2) production, and Toll-like pathogen pattern-recognition receptors TLR-3, TLR-5 and TLR-9, in two lympho-haematopoietic stromal cell lines derived from the spleen (trout splenic stroma, TSS) and the pronephros (trout pronephric stroma-2, TPS-2) of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), as well as in primary cultures of rainbow trout head kidney macrophages, after their exposure to the well-known immunostimulants LPS, levamisole and poly I:C.
Although there were differences in the responses between the two stromal cell lines, using reverse transcription followed by real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) we demonstrated that exposure to the immunostimulants, particularly poly I:C and LPS, resulted in significant changes in the expression of the immunoregulatory genes in the two stromal cell lines in many cases their responses resembling in fold change magnitudes and in response profiles to those observed in the primary macrophage cultures. Exposure to poly I:C and, with lower fold change values, to LPS produced upregulation of the pro- (IL-1β, IL-8, TNF-α) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10) cytokine genes, as well as of the Mx-1 gene. Furthermore, the immunostimulation elicited the upregulation of COX-2, iNOS and arginase-2 genes in the cell lines. Likewise, the TSS and TPS-2 cell lines significantly upregulated the expression of TLR-3, TLR-5 and TLR-9 genes after exposure to the immunostimulants, thus explaining the ability of the stromal cells to recognise and respond to the immunostimulants.
Such results give support to an important role of lympho-haematopoietic stromal cells in the development and control of pro-inflammatory responses in fish. The upregulation of genes of pro-inflammatory cytokines and of mediators of the innate immune responses correlates well with the previously demonstrated functional capacities, including phagocytosis, microbicidal activity and NO production, exhibited by the TSS and TPS-2 stromal cell lines when exposed to the same immunostimulants. On the other hand, the expression of immunosuppressing genes (IL-10, COX-2 and arginase-2) demonstrate that the lympho-haematopoietic stromal cells are also able to contribute to the control of inflammatory responses.
This study reinforce the possibility of using histotypic cell cultures, as those formed by the TSS and TPS-2 cell lines, formed by heterogeneous cell populations that partially replicates the cell–cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions, to develop cost-effective and repetitive in vitro systems for the screening of immunostimulant candidates for aquaculture, as they are able to replicate in vitro immune regulatory networks occurring in vivo.