Modification of the plasma complement protein profile by exogenous estrogens is indicative of a compromised immune competence in marine medaka (Oryzias melastigma)
Growing evidence suggests that the immune system of teleost is vulnerable to xenoestrogens, which are ubiquitous in the marine environment. This study detected and identified the major circulatory immune proteins deregulated by 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), which may be linked to fish susceptibility to pathogens in the marine medaka, Oryzias melastigma. Fish immune competence was determined using a host resistance assay to pathogenic bacteria Edwardsiella tarda. Females were consistently more susceptible to infection-induced mortality than males. Exposure to EE2 could narrow the sex gap of mortality by increasing infection-induced death in male fish. Proteomic analysis revealed that the major plasma immune proteins of adult fish were highly sexually dimorphic. EE2 induced pronounced sex-specific changes in the plasma proteome, with the male plasma composition clearly becoming “feminised”. Male plasma was found to contain a higher level of fibrinogens, WAP63 and ependymin-2-like protein, which are involved in coagulation, inflammation and regeneration. For the first time, we demonstrated that expression of C1q subunit B (C1Q), an initiating factor of the classical complement pathway, was higher in males and was suppressed in both sexes in response to EE2 and bacterial challenge. Moreover, cleavage and post-translational modification of C3, the central component of the complement system, could be altered by EE2 treatment in males (C3dg down; C3g up). Multiple regression analysis indicated that C1Q is possibly an indicator of fish survival, which warrants further confirmation. The findings support the potential application of plasma immune proteins for prognosis/diagnosis of fish immune competence. Moreover, this study provides the first biochemical basis of the sex-differences in fish immunity and how these differences might be modified by xenoestrogens.