Outside JEB, June 7, 2022: "How distinct killifish populations respond differently to stress", Andrea Murillo
Originally posted March 18, 2022
Madison L.Earhart, Tessa S. Blanchard, Nicholas Strowbridge, William S. Bugg, Patricia M. Schulte. 2022. Gene expression and latitudinal variation in the stress response in Fundulus heteroclitus. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Atlantic killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus, are intertidal marsh fish found along the east coast of North America. Associated with the thermal gradient along this coast, northern and southern killifish populations are known to differ in morphology, behavior, and physiology, including in their cortisol stress response. Our goal was to explore population differences in the stress response and identify underlying molecular mechanisms. We measured responses to both acute and repeated stress in plasma cortisol, stress axis mRNA expression, and body condition in northern and southern killifish. Following an acute stressor, the southern population had higher cortisol levels than the northern population but there was no difference between populations following repeated stress. In the brain, both corticotropin releasing factor and its binding protein had higher expression in the southern than the northern population, but the northern population showed more changes in mRNA levels following a stressor. In the head kidney, Melanocortin 2 Receptor and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein mRNA levels were higher in the southern population suggesting a larger capacity for cortisol synthesis than in the northern fish. Lastly, the glucocorticoid receptor GR1 mRNA levels were greater in the liver of southern fish, suggesting a greater capacity to respond to cortisol, and GR2 had differential expression in the head kidney, suggesting an interpopulation difference in stress axis negative feedback loops. Southern, but not northern, fish were able to maintain body condition following stress, suggesting that these differences in the stress response may be important for adaptation across latitudes.