Both in mammals and fish, stress induces remarkable changes in the immune response. We focused on stress-induced changes in the activity of neutrophilic granulocytes in the R3 and K lines of common carp, which showed differential stress responses. Our study clearly demonstrates that a prolonged restraint stress differentially affects the activity of K and R3 carp neutrophils. In the K line, stress decreased the respiratory burst, while in the R3 line it reduced the release of extracellular DNA. Surprisingly, the stress-induced changes in ROS production and NET formation did not correlate with changes in gene expression of the inflammatory mediators and GR receptors. In neutrophilic granulocytes from K carp, gene expression of the stress-sensitive cortisol GR1 receptor was significantly higher than in neutrophils from R3 fish, which will make these cells more sensitive to high levels of cortisol. Moreover, upon stress, neutrophilic granulocytes of K carp up-regulated gene expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 while this was not observed in neutrophilic granulocytes of R3 carp.
Therefore, we can hypothesize that, in contrast to R3 neutrophils, the more cortisol sensitive neutrophils from K carp respond to stress with up-regulation of IL-10 and consequently reduction of ROS production. Most probably the ROS-independent NET formation in K carp is not regulated by this anti-inflammatory cytokine. These data may indicate a predominantly ROS-independent formation of NETs by carp neutrophilic granulocytes. Moreover, they underline the important role of IL-10 in stress-induced immunoregulation.