Specific and non-overlapping functions of testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone in the regulation of professional phagocyte responses in the teleost fish gilthead seabream

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Sex hormones, both estrogens and androgens, have a strong impact on immunity in mammals. In fish, the role of androgens in immunity has received little attention and contradictory conclusions have been obtained. However, it is well known that sex steroids are involved in fish growth, osmoregulation and gonad remodelation. In this study, we examine the in vitro effects of testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone, the two main fish androgens, on the professional phagocytes of the teleost fish gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata L.). Although both testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone failed to modulate the respiratory burst of seabream phagocytes, testosterone but not 11-ketotestosterone was able to increase the phagocytic ability of non-activated phagocytes. Curiously, 11-ketotestosterone was more powerful than testosterone at inducing the expression of its own receptor, namely androgen receptor b (ARb), in acidophilic granulocytes (AGs), but none of them affected the basal ARb expression levels in macrophages (MØ). Furthermore, although physiological concentrations of testosterone exerted a pro-inflammatory effect on both AGs and MØs, 11-ketotestosterone showed an anti-inflammatory effect in AGs and a strong pro-inflammatory effect in MØs. Interestingly, both androgens modulated the expression of toll-like receptors in these two immune cell types, suggesting that androgens might regulate the sensitivity of phagocytes to pathogens and damage signals. Testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone have a competitive effect, at least, on the modulation of the expression of some genes. Therefore, our results show for the first time a non-overlapping role for testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone in the regulation of professional phagocyte functions in fish.

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