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Growth hormone transgenesis in coho salmon disrupts muscle immune function impacting cross-talk with growth systems [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Abdullah Alzaid, Jin-Hyoung Kim, Robert H. Devlin, Samuel A. M. Martin, and Daniel J. Macqueen

Suppression of growth during infection may aid resource allocation towards effective immune function. Past work supporting this hypothesis in salmonid fish revealed an immune-responsive regulation of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system – an endocrine pathway downstream of growth hormone (GH). Skeletal muscle is the main target for growth and energetic storage in fish, yet little is known about how its growth is regulated during an immune response. We addressed this knowledge gap by characterising muscle immune responses in size-matched coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) achieving different growth rates. We compared a wild-type strain with two GH transgenic groups from the same genetic background achieving either maximal or suppressed growth – a design separating GH’s direct effects from its influence on growth rate and nutritional state. Fish were sampled 30 h post-injection with phosphate-buffered saline (control) or mimics of bacterial or viral infection. We quantified mRNA expression levels for genes from the GH, GH receptor, IGF hormone, IGF1 receptor and IGF-binding protein families, along with immune genes involved in inflammatory or antiviral responses and muscle growth status marker genes. We demonstrate dampened immune function in GH transgenics compared with wild-type. The muscle of GH transgenics achieving rapid growth showed no detectable antiviral response, coupled with evidence of a constitutive inflammatory state. GH and IGF system gene expression was strongly altered by GH transgenesis and fast growth, both for baseline expression and responses to immune stimulation. Thus, GH transgenesis strongly disrupts muscle immune status and normal GH and IGF system expression responses to immune stimulation.

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