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Title: Host - parasite interactions between Lernaeocera branchialis (Copepoda: Pennellidae) and its host Gadus morhua (Teleosti: Gadidae)
Authors: Barker, Sarah E.
Supervisor(s): Bron, James Emmanuel
Thompson, Kimberly Dawn
Bricknell, Ian R.
Keywords: Lernaeocera branchialis
Gadus morhua
host-parasite interactions
immune response
Issue Date: Aug-2009
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Abstract Lernaeocera branchialis (Linnaeus, 1767) is a parasitic copepod possessing a complex dual-host lifecycle. The “definitive” gadoid hosts, including Gadus morhua (Atlantic cod), Melanogrammus aeglefinus (haddock) and Merlangius merlangus (whiting), are infected by the fertilised female, which penetrates the host’s ventral aorta or bulbus arteriosus whilst undertaking extensive metamorphosis and a haematophagous lifestyle. The pathogenic effects of this activity upon the host have been well documented and mortality may occur, especially when multiple parasites are present. These negative impacts on cod, particularly juveniles, by L. branchialis have the potential to adversely affect cod aquaculture in the future, and already vulnerable wild cod stocks. This PhD project therefore, investigated the immune response of wild haddock and cultured-cod post-infection by L. branchialis, and the possible mechanisms by which the parasite modulates / evades the host’s immune response. The systemic immune response of both wild haddock and cultured-cod post-infection by L. branchialis depended on the maturation stage of the parasite, and in the former host species, upon the infection intensity. Wild haddock harbouring fully metamorphosed females showed an increase in circulating thrombocytes and a decrease in serum protein levels however; if multiple mature L. branchialis were present the haddock possessed reduced circulating monocytes, and increased circulating thrombocytes and serum anti-trypsin activity. Infection by L. branchialis was also associated with a suppressive effect on haddock serum spontaneous haemolytic activity. These responses were thought to be due to the host trying to counteract the increased damage caused by the massive increase in size and the feeding of the mature parasite, which is more pronounced when multiple parasites are present, resulting in the increase in some parameters and the ‘consumption’ of others. However, the effect of parasite-derived secretions and other pathogens due to observations on wild fish could not be discounted. The laboratory-infection of cultured-cod from two different sources was also performed in order to study the immune response over time. The two groups of cod showed differences in their immune response to L. branchialis. The first group showed suppressed respiratory burst activity of phagocytes, as the parasite reached the early penella sub-stage, whilst no suppression in phagocyte respiratory burst activity was found in the second group. The parasite was found to migrate along the afferent branchial artery of the cod where a thrombus formed and was present throughout its migration into the ventral aorta. At 14 d post-infection, leukocytes expressing Interleukin 8 mRNA were observed within the free-flowing blood at the periphery of the organising thrombus within the lumen of the ventral aorta. This was speculated to aid the recruitment and activation of leukocytes to the site, and the maturation and neovascularisation of granulation tissue. The infection of the second group subsided with the death of the parasite, and none of the parasites metamorphosed past the early penella sub-stage. The live parasites infecting the first group of cod did not possess IgM or complement component C3 binding on their cuticle, however, both IgM and C3 binding occurred on the dead parasites in the second infection trial. This may highlight the importance of these opsonins and the cytotoxic effect of phagocytes in the elimination of L. branchialis by some cod. However, the first infection was terminated as the parasite reached the early penella sub-stage due to a loss of stock cod prior to the study, so the long-term success of the infection can not be concluded. Therefore, the immune response to infection needs to be determined over the entire metamorphosis of L. branchialis to determine whether the infection was successful or not, and preferably in populations with varying susceptibility to L. branchialis. This will not be possible without further studies into the resistance of different stocks of cultured-cod. Many arthropod parasites, such as ticks and salmon lice, have been previously documented to produce pharmacologically active secretions, aiding host invasion and parasite feeding, preventing the host immune response from working effectively against the parasite, all aimed at improving survival of the parasite. Therefore, the effects of the secretory/excretory products (SEPs) produced during the initial infective stage and by the mature, fully metamorphosed female on the immune response of cultured-cod in vitro, and the location of exocrine glands associated with the oral region of the parasite were investigated. The SEPs from the infective stage of the parasite were found not to affect the intracellular hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production of phagocytes. The practical difficulties in collecting large quantities of the SEPs from the infective stage meant that their effects could not be tested on the other host immune parameters studied. The SEPs from fully metamorphosed female L. branchialis, however, had a number of suppressive effects on the host immune response in vitro including: 1) suppression of the intracellular production of cytotoxic H2O2 during the respiratory burst of phagocytic leukocytes post-PMA stimulation, 2) suppression of the production of macrophage activating factor by leukocytes with a priming effect on naïve phagocyte function, and 3) suppression of the chemo-attraction ‘power’ of zymosan activated cod serum, i.e. anaphylatoxin activity, on head kidney-derived leukocytes. These effects were dose-dependent, and highlight the capacity of L. branchialis to suppress its host’s innate immune response at the local feeding area. Further work is required to establish the mechanisms by which the parasite-derived SEPs suppress these host immune parameters, and to identify which molecules produced by the parasite are responsible. The correlation between these in vitro results, and systemic immune parameters measured from laboratory-infected Atlantic cod and wild infected haddock are discussed. Host immuno-modulation by other arthropod parasites is mediated by pharmacologically active secretions produced by exocrine glands. Therefore, the exocrine glands of the infective and fully metamorphosed female L. branchialis were also investigated in order to identify those that might be responsible for the secretion of host-modifying products. Adult female exocrine glands were mapped using diaminobenzidine (DAB), most commonly known to stain peroxidases and catalases. These compounds are known to be involved in the neutralisation of harmful free radicals which are released during the respiratory burst and tissue damage. Such products may therefore be important protective secretory components at the site of feeding / infection. Exocrine glands were located in the infective stage associated with the oral region, one pair termed the anterior gland complex (AGC), and the other pair extending either side of the oral cone termed the circum-oral glands (CG). These were further investigated using light microscopy and transmission electron microcopy. The AGC and CGs possessed multi-component secretions and they possessed secretory vesicles, abundant and highly active rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus suggesting that protein is an important component of the secretory products. These glands were also observed in the fully metamorphosed females where they had increased in size within the cephalothorax post-metamorphosis. It is hoped that the identification of these glandular structures, which are thought to secrete within the local vicinity of the oral cone, will aid future studies regarding the identification and secretion kinetics of parasite-derived molecules during the infection and feeding process. These studies together with the investigation of the immune response to infection in this thesis have shed more light on the interactions between this host and parasite, which will lay the foundation for further research which could eventually lead to the development of targeted control measures. This could include research into vaccine development against parasite-derived compounds involved in the modulation of the host’s immune response and important for parasite survival, or the investigation of the use of immuno-stimulants to counteract the host immunosuppression experienced during infection by L. branchialis.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences

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