Supplementing the diet with functional ingredients is a key strategy to improve fish performance and health in aquaculture. The amino acids of the urea and nitric oxide (NO) cycles - arginine, ornithine and citrulline - perform crucial roles in the immune response through the generation of NO and the synthesis of polyamine used for tissue repair. We previously found that citrulline supplementation improves and maintains circulating free arginine levels in rainbow trout more effectively than arginine supplementation. Here, to test whether supplementation of urea cycle amino acids modulates the immune response in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), we supplemented a commercial diet with high levels (2% of total diet) of either arginine, ornithine or citrulline during a 7-week feeding trial, before challenging fish with the bacterium Aeromonas salmonicida. We carried out two separate experiments to investigate fish survival and 24h post-infection to investigate the immediate response of free amino acid levels, and transcriptional changes in genes encoding urea cycle, NO cycle and polyamine synthesis enzymes. There were no differences in percentage fish mortality between diets, however there were numerous highly significant changes in free amino acid levels and gene expression to both dietary supplementation and infection. Out of 26 amino acids detected in blood plasma, 8 were significantly changed by infection and 9 by dietary supplementation of either arginine, ornithine or citrulline. Taurine, glycine and aspartic acid displayed the largest decreases in circulating levels in infected fish, while ornithine and isoleucine were the only amino acids that increased in concentration. We investigated transcriptional responses of the enzymes involved in arginine metabolism in liver and head kidney; transcripts for polyamine synthesis enzymes showed highly significant increases in both tissues across all diets following infection. The paralogous arginase-encoding genes, Arg1a, Arg1b, Arg2a and Arg2b, displayed complex responses across tissues and also due to diet and infection. Overall, these findings improve our understanding of amino acid metabolism following infection and suggests new potential amino acid targets for improving the immune response in salmonids.
The research was supported by a studentship to T. Clark funded between the University of Aberdeen and BioMar Ltd.
- functional amino acids
- urea cycle
- Urea cycle
- Functional amino acids