The gastrointestinal system of fish reacts rapidly to food deprivation. The relative masses of digestive organs and activities of digestive enzymes decrease within days of fasting. This is believed to be an energy-conserving strategy as the metabolic cost of maintaining digestive capacity is high. Cortisol is known for its role in energy mobilization following stress exposure, and prolonged elevated cortisol levels have been shown to reduce growth rates in fish. Fish experiencing chronic cortisol elevations show structural changes to their digestive tissues and overall reductions in relative digestive tissue masses. In fish fasting for prolonged periods, circulating cortisol levels have been reported to be downregulated, upregulated, or unchanged compared to feeding fish. This study aimed to investigate if RU486 and spironolactone, antagonists of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), and mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), respectively, alone or in combination affect circulating cortisol levels during prolonged starvation. In addition, we tested the effects of blocking GR and MR, on the down-regulation of relative digestive tissue mass during starvation, and its effects on weight loss. Three treatment groups of rainbow trout were intraperitoneally implanted with either GR, MR, or GR and MR blockers. A fourth group was implanted with cortisol, while a fifth group served as a control. All treatment groups were sampled over a course of four weeks of food deprivation and compared against each other and fed control fish at day 0 of the trial. Starvation for 2 weeks and longer significantly increased circulating cortisol levels in all groups except for the group implanted with GR and MR antagonists. Loss of body mass occurred most rapidly during the first week of starvation. Spironolactone treatment resulted in significantly reduced loss of mass during the first week, however, over the following weeks, no differences in mass loss were observed in the groups implanted with blockers, while cortisol-treated fish showed the highest decrease in body mass over time. Relative digestive tissue mass decreased in all groups but apparently, the fasting-induced elevation in plasma cortisol levels did not affect the relative weight loss of digestive tissues as no differences were observed between control fish and GR + MR antagonist treated fish. Very high cortisol levels caused by cortisol treatment however caused a faster decrease in the relative mass of some digestive organs, particularly the stomach.
|Journal||Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology|
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - 2022|
- Gastrointerstinal system
- Pyloric ceca