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Salmonid alphavirus (SAV) causes pancreas disease (PD) in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) and disease outbreaks are mainly detected after seawater transfer. The influence of the smoltification process on the immune responses, specifically the adaptive response of Atlantic salmon after SAV infection, is not fully understood. In this study, Atlantic salmon post-smolts were infected by either bath immersion (BI) or intramuscular injection (IM) with SAV subtype 3, 2 weeks (Phase A) or 9 weeks (Phase B) after seawater transfer. The transcript levels of genes related to cellular, humoral and inflammatory responses were evaluated on head kidney samples collected at 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days post-infection (dpi). Corresponding negative control groups (CT) were established accordingly. Significant differences were found between both phases and between the IM and BI groups. The anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 was up-regulated in Phase A at a higher level than in Phase B. High mRNA levels of the genes RIG-1, SOCS1 and STAT1 were observed in all groups except the BI-B group (BI-Phase B). Moreover, the IM-B group showed a higher regulation of genes related to cellular responses, such as CD40, MHCII, and IL-15, that indicated the activation of a strong cell-mediated immune response. CD40 mRNA levels were elevated one week earlier in the BI-B group than in the BI-A group (BI-Phase A). A significant up-regulation of IgM and IgT genes was seen in both IM groups, but the presence of neutralizing antibodies to SAV was detected only in Phase B fish at 21 and 28 dpi. In addition, we found differences in the basal levels of some of the analysed genes between non-infected control groups of both phases. Findings suggest that Atlantic salmon post-smolts adapted for a longer time to seawater before they come into contact with SAV, developed a stronger humoral and cell-mediated immune response during a SAV infection.Neutralizing abs to SAV were detected only in salmon adapted for longer to seawater.Salmon adapted for longer to SW develop stronger cell-mediated immunity to SAV.Upon shorter adaptation to SW, salmon show IL-10 upregulation at early time points.SOCS1 gene was upregulated in all infected groups in both phases.Upon shorter adaptation to SW, SOCS1 upregulation was maintained for longer time.