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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/1819

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Title: Photoperiod effects on circadian rhythms and puberty onset in African catfish Clarias gariepinus
Author(s): Al-Khamees, Sami A.
Supervisor(s): Migaud, Herve
Keywords: Photoperiod
Melatonin
Catfish
reproduction
Issue Date: 30-Jun-2009
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: ABSTRACT Photoperiod manipulation is routinely used in the aquaculture industry with the aim to enhance growth by manipulating the timing of reproduction in several commercially important temperate fish species. However, there are clear gaps in our understanding of how photoperiod is perceived by the circadian axis and transmitted to the brain to alter reproduction. Furthermore, due to the wide range of environments inhabited by fish, it is unlikely that one single organization exists. It is therefore believed that comparative studies of temperate species “models” with tropical species such as the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) that adapted to different environments characterized by weaker light signals can help in such an aim. A number of studies were therefore performed in this PhD project to expand our knowledge on circadian biology and environmental physiological effects in African catfish. The first aim was to characterize the circadian melatonin system in this species (chapter 3). Results clearly showed that the control of melatonin production by the pineal gland was very different in the African catfish as compared to temperate species such as salmon and trout. Indeed, melatonin production appeared to mainly depend on light stimuli perceived by the eyes as opposed to salmonids where light directly perceived by the pineal gland regulates its own melatonin production within photoreceptors. The main evidence was obtained in ophthalmectomised fish that were unable to synthesize and release melatonin into the blood circulation during the dark period. This was the first time that such a decentralized organisation, similar in a way to the mammalian system, was found in any teleost species. In vitro results also supported such findings as African catfish pineal glands in isolation were not able to normally produce melatonin at night as usually seen in all other fish species studied so far. This indirectly suggested that pineal gland photo-sensitivity might be different in this tropical species. Further studies were performed to better determine the amount of light that can be perceived by the African catfish pineal gland depending on light transmittance though the skull (where the pineal gland is located). Surprisingly, it appeared that catfish cranium act as a stronger light filter than in other species resulting in lower light irradiance of the pineal gland. This could explain, although it still needs to be further confirmed, why African catfish photic control of melatonin produced by the pineal would have evolved differently than in temperate species. The work then focused on better characterizing diel melatonin production and endogenous entrainment through exposure to continuous photic regimes (continuous light, LL or darkness, DD) (chapter 4). Daily melatonin profiles of fish exposed to 12L:12D photoperiod (routinely used in indoor systems) confirmed low melatonin production at day (<10 pg/ml) and increase at night (50 pg/ml) as reported in most vertebrate species studied to date. Interestingly, results also showed that melatonin production or suppression can anticipate the change from night to day with basal melatonin levels observed 45 mins prior to the switch on of the light. These observations clearly suggest the involvement of a clock-controlled system of melatonin secretion that is capable of anticipating the next photophase period. Furthermore, when constant light (LL) was applied, day/night melatonin rhythms were abolished as expected due to the constant photic inhibition of AANAT activity (e.g. one of the enzyme responsible for the conversion of serotonin into melatonin). However when fish were exposed to constant darkness (DD), a strong endogenous melatonin rhythm (maintained for at least 4 days and 18 days in catfish and Nile tilapia respectively) was found, demonstrating once again the presence of robust circadian oscillators in this species. The next aim of the doctoral project was then to investigate circadian behaviour of catfish through locomotor activity studies (Chapter 5). African catfish is again a very interesting “model” due to its reported nocturnal activity rhythmicity as compared to most other teleosts species. Locomotor activity is considered as a very useful tool to elucidate the mechanisms of circadian organization in both invertebrates and vertebrates circadian. Results first confirmed the nocturnal activity rhythms in the species. Furthermore, clear circadian endogenous rhythms were observed under constant light (LL) or darkness (DD) during several days before losing rhythmicity. Interestingly, the activity levels varied depending on the stocking density. Finally, the last aim of this project was to test the effects of a range of photoperiodic manipulations on growth performances, sexual development and reproductive performances in African catfish reared from eggs to puberty. Results did not show any differences at the early sages (up to 90 days post hatching) in growth performances nor mortality (high) between control 12L:12D and LL treatments. In contrast, during the juvenile-adult period (from 120 to 360 DPH), significant growth effects were observed, as previously reported in other catfish species, with fish under LL displaying lower growth rate, food consumption and feed conversion efficiency in comparison to most other treatments (12:12, LL, 6:6, 6:18, 12-LL and LL-12) especially 12l:12D. However, no major effects of the photoperiodic treatments were observed with all fish recruited into puberty and developing gonads although differences in the timing of gametogenesis could be observed, especially a delay (circa 2 months) in females exposed to short daylength (6L:18D and 6L:6D). As for egg quality, egg diameter was the only parameter to differ between treatments (slightly larger in egg batch from LL treated females). Overall, none of the photoperiodic regime suppressed maturation in African catfish as opposed to some temperate species. The work carried out during this PhD project clearly advanced our understanding of circadian rhythmicity, light perception and effects of photoperiod on physiology in a tropical species. Future studies are now required to further characterise the circadian system and link it to evolutionary trends within vertebrates.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/1819
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences
Aquaculture

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