Transcriptomic responses to immune stimulation were investigated in coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) with distinct growth phenotypes. Wild-type fish were contrasted to strains with accelerated growth arising either from selective breeding (i.e. domestication) or genetic modification. Such distinct routes to accelerated growth may have unique implications for relationships and/or trade-offs between growth and immune function.
RNA-Seq was performed on liver and head kidney in four ‘growth response groups’ injected with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C; viral mimic), peptidoglycan (PGN; bacterial mimic) or PBS (control). These groups were: 1) ‘W’: wild-type, 2) ‘TF’: growth hormone (GH) transgenic salmon with ~ 3-fold higher growth-rate than W, 3) ‘TR’: GH transgenic fish ration restricted to possess a growth-rate equal to W, and 4) ‘D’: domesticated non-transgenic fish showing growth-rate intermediate to W and TF. D and TF showed a higher similarity in transcriptomic response compared to W and TR. Several immune genes showed constitutive expression differences among growth response groups, including perforin 1 and C-C motif chemokine 19-like. Among the affected immune pathways, most were up-regulated by Poly I:C and PGN. In response to PGN, the c-type lectin receptor signalling pathway responded uniquely in TF and TR. In response to stimulation with both immune mimics, TR responded more strongly than other groups. Further, group-specific pathway responses to PGN stimulation included NOD-like receptor signalling in W and platelet activation in TR. TF consistently showed the most attenuated immune response relative to W, and more DEGs were apparent in TR than TF and D relative to W, suggesting that a non-satiating ration coupled with elevated circulating GH levels may cause TR to possess enhanced immune capabilities. Alternatively, TF and D salmon are prevented from acquiring the same level of immune response as TR due to direction of energy to high overall somatic growth. Further study of the effects of ration restriction in growth-modified fishes is warranted.
These findings improve our understanding of the pleiotropic effects of growth modification on the immunological responses of fish, revealing unique immune pathway responses depending on the mechanism of growth acceleration and nutritional availability.