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Acidophilic granulocytes in the gills of gilthead seabream Sparus aurata: evidence for their responses to a natural infection by a copepod ectoparasite

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Immunohistochemical and ultrastructural studies were conducted on the gills of gilthead seabream, Sparus aurata L., naturally infected with the copepod ectoparasite Ergasilus lizae (Krøyer, 1863) in order to assess pathology and the host immune cell response. Gills of 56 gilthead seabream were screened for ectoparasites; 36 specimens (64.3%) harbored E. lizae. Intensity of infection was 32.7±8.7 (mean ± SE). Pathological alterations to the gills of the host were more pronounced in close proximity to the copepod site of attachment. The parasite attached to the gills by means of its modified second antennae, occluded the arteries, provoked epithelial hyperplasia and hemorrhages and most often caused lamellar disruption. Numerous granular cells were encountered near the site of E. lizae attachment. In both infected and uninfected gills, the granular cells lay within the filaments and frequently occurred within the connective tissue inside and outside the blood vessels of the filaments. The type of granular cell was identified by immunohistochemical staining by using the monoclonal antibody G7 (mAb G7), which specifically recognizes acidophilic granulocytes (AGs) of S. aurata and with an anti-histamine antibody (as a marker for mast cells, MCs) on sections from 13 uninfected gills and 21 parasitized gills. The use of mAb G7 revealed that, in gills harboring copepods, the number of G7-positive cells (i.e., AGs; 32.9±3.9, mean number of cells per 45,000 μm2 ± SE) was significantly higher than the density of the same cells in uninfected gills (15.3±3.8; ANOVA, P<0.05). Few histamine-positive granular cells (i.e., MCs) were found in the uninfected and parasitized gills. Here, we show, for the first time in S. aurata infected gills, that AGs rather than MCs are recruited and involved in the response to E. lizae infection in seabream.

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The authors are grateful to S. Squerzanti and A. Margutti from the University of Ferrara for their technical assistance with some aspects of this study and to Dr. A.P. Shinn from the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, for English correction of drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bahram Sayyaf Dezfuli.

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This study was supported by grants from the Italian Ministry of the University and Scientific Research and Techonology.

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Lui, A., Manera, M., Giari, L. et al. Acidophilic granulocytes in the gills of gilthead seabream Sparus aurata: evidence for their responses to a natural infection by a copepod ectoparasite. Cell Tissue Res 353, 465–472 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-013-1627-5

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  • Innate immunity
  • Granulocytes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Parasitism
  • Ergasilus lizae
  • Fish
  • Seabream