Cortisol modulates metabolism and energy mobilization in wild-caught pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)

Abstract

Acute elevation of cortisol via activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-interrenal (HPI) axis aids the fish in dealing with a stressor. However, chronic elevation of cortisol has detrimental effects and has been studied extensively in lab settings. However, data pertaining to wild teleosts are lacking. Here, we characterized the metabolic consequences of prolonged cortisol elevation (96 h) in wild-caught pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus). Pumpkinseed were implanted with cocoa butter alone (sham) or containing cortisol (25 mg kg−1 body weight), and at 24, 48, 72, and 96 h, tissue samples were collected, whole-body ammonia excretion was determined, and whole-organism metabolism was assessed using intermittent flow respirometry. Cortisol-treated pumpkinseed exhibited the highest plasma cortisol concentration at 24 h post-implantation, with levels decreasing over the subsequent time points although remaining higher than in sham-treated fish. Cortisol-treated fish exhibited higher standard and maximal metabolic rates than sham-treated fish, but the effect of cortisol treatment on aerobic scope was negligible. Indices of energy synthesis/mobilization, including blood glucose concentrations, hepatosomatic index, hepatic glycogen concentrations, and ammonia excretion rates, were higher in cortisol-treated fish compared with controls. Our work suggests that although aerobic scope was not diminished by prolonged elevation of cortisol levels, higher metabolic expenditures may be of detriment to the animal’s performance in the longer term.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Queen’s University Biological Station staff and various members of the Cooke Lab in facilitating this research. We would also like to thank Alexander M. Zimmer and Brett Culbert for their input and assistance in sample analysis.

Funding

M.J.L. and C.B. are supported by NSERC PGS-D. A.J.Z. is supported by the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship. S.J.C. and K.M.G. are supported by an NSERC discovery grant. S.J.C. is further supported by the Canada Research Chairs program.

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All authors contributed to the design of the experiment. The experimental series were conducted by M.J.L. and A.J.Z. Assays and data analysis were performed by M.J.L. with help from E.J.E., D.L., C.B., and K.M.G. The manuscript was written by M.J.L. with all authors contributing to revisions.

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Correspondence to Michael J. Lawrence.

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Lawrence, M.J., Eliason, E.J., Zolderdo, A.J. et al. Cortisol modulates metabolism and energy mobilization in wild-caught pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus). Fish Physiol Biochem 45, 1813–1828 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10695-019-00680-z

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Keywords

  • Teleost
  • Metabolism
  • Aerobic scope
  • Stress
  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Protein catabolism