Russian sturgeon cultured in a subtropical climate shows weaken innate defences and a chronic stress response

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Abstract

Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) has been successfully farmed in Uruguay for the past ten years. However, during the Uruguayan summer fish endure high water temperatures and increased bacterial infections that threaten aquaculture. Our understanding of sturgeon's immune system and its interplay with environmental factors like temperature is almost unknown. This study analysed the way in which seasonal variations affect enzymatic blood components of Russian sturgeon's innate defences, including the serum alternative complement pathway (ACP), ceruloplasmin (Cp) and lysozyme activities. Results showed that summertime conditions in the farm altered these defences in different ways, inducing a significant decrease in ACP and Cp, and an increase in lysozyme. In addition, serum levels of total protein and cortisol decreased in summer, suggesting a chronic stress response was induced in parallel. Subsequently, we analysed whether the increase in water river temperature during summer could account for the observed results. To that end, we acclimated juvenile sturgeons to mild (18 °C) or warm (24 °C) temperatures for 37 days. Like in summer, sturgeons exposed to 24 °C showed lower levels of serum ACP, Cp and total proteins, together with a progressive decrease in body weight and increased fish mortality. Administration of an immunostimulant containing Se and Zn slightly reverted the temperature-induced effects on sturgeon's defences. Altogether, our study provides novel data on various physiological parameters of the Russian sturgeon and highlights the impact warm temperature has on stress and innate immunity in this chondrostean fish.

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