Prolonged cortisol elevation alters whole body and tissue metabolism in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Tilo Pfalzgraff*, Ivar Lund, Peter Vilhelm Skov

*Corresponding author for this work

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Chronic elevation of circulating cortisol is known to have deleterious effects on fish, but information about the consequences of prolonged cortisol elevation on the metabolism of fish is scarce. To test the effects of chronic cortisol elevation on the aerobic performance of rainbow trout, we examined how two severities of chronically elevated plasma cortisol levels affected the oxygen uptake during rest and after exhaustive exercise using a high (HC) and a medium cortisol (MC) treatment. High cortisol doses significantly affected standard (SMR) and maximum metabolic rates (MMR) compared to control fish. In comparison, the medium cortisol treatment elevated maximum metabolic rates (MMR) but did not significantly influence SMR compared to a sham group (S) and control group (C). The medium cortisol treatment resulted in a significantly increased metabolic scope due to an elevation of MMR, an effect that was abolished in the HC group due to co-occuring elevations in SMR. The elevated SMR of the HC-treated fish could be explained by increased in vitro oxygen uptake rates (MO2) of specific tissues, indicating that the raised basal metabolism was caused, in part, by an increase in oxygen demand of specific tissues. Haematological results indicated an increased reliance on anaerobic metabolic pathways in cortisol-treated fish under resting conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111098
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Aerobic scope (AS)
  • Excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)
  • Maximum metabolic rate (MMR)
  • Metabolic scope (MS)
  • Standard metabolic rate (SMR)


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