A pinboard by
Emmanuelle Zoccola

PhD candidate, The University of Queensland


Bacterial infections are a major cause of fish mortality in the aquaculture industry. Most bacteria present in aquatic systems are gram-negative, and their outer layer is composed of a highly variable lipopolysaccharide (LPS) capsule. In mammals, LPS is highly toxic and causes general inflammation with fever and hypotension and can be followed by death. However, fish don't seem to react to LPS in the same way, as they don't show evident signs of disease but still experience mortalities. My work focuses on barramundi, an endemic Australian farmed fish, and I have shown that they lack the typical mammalian receptor for LPS (TLR4), which explains why fish may not react strongly to it. However, we also have evidence that LPS can be used in vaccines for aquaculture, so fish must have another way to recognise LPS. So far, I have identified at least three other LPS receptors in barramundi. These receptors seem to bypass the inflammatory response, while still providing the fish with immune memory (critical for vaccination). Overall, this research helped underline the evolutionary differences between teleost fish and other vertebrates regarding immunity. Moreover, understanding the immune response of fish can improve vaccine design and the health management strategies implemented in a commercial setting.


Identification of Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) DC-SCRIPT, a Specific Molecular Marker for Dendritic Cells in Fish.

Abstract: Antigen presentation is a critical step bridging innate immune recognition and specific immune memory. In mammals, the process is orchestrated by dendritic cells (DCs) in the lymphatic system, which initiate clonal proliferation of antigen-specific lymphocytes. However, fish lack a classical lymphatic system and there are currently no cellular markers for DCs in fish, thus antigen-presentation in fish is poorly understood. Recently, antigen-presenting cells similar in structure and function to mammalian DCs were identified in various fish, including rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and zebrafish (Danio rerio). The present study aimed to identify a potential molecular marker for DCs in fish and therefore targeted DC-SCRIPT, a well-conserved zinc finger protein that is preferentially expressed in all sub-types of human DCs. Putative dendritic cells were obtained in culture by maturation of spleen and pronephros-derived monocytes. DC-SCRIPT was identified in barramundi by homology using RACE PCR and genome walking. Specific expression of DC-SCRIPT was detected in barramundi cells by Stellaris mRNA FISH, in combination with MHCII expression when exposed to bacterial derived peptidoglycan, suggesting the presence of DCs in L. calcarifer. Moreover, morphological identification was achieved by light microscopy of cytospins prepared from these cultures. The cultured cells were morphologically similar to mammalian and trout DCs. Migration assays determined that these cells have the ability to move towards pathogens and pathogen associated molecular patterns, with a preference for peptidoglycans over lipopolysaccharides. The cells were also strongly phagocytic, engulfing bacteria and rapidly breaking them down. Barramundi DCs induced significant proliferation of responder populations of T-lymphocytes, supporting their role as antigen presenting cells. DC-SCRIPT expression in head kidney was higher 6 and 24 h following intraperitoneal challenge with peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharide and declined after 3 days relative to PBS-injected controls. Relative expression was also lower in the spleen at 3 days post challenge but increased again at 7 days. As DC-SCRIPT is a constitutively expressed nuclear receptor, independent of immune activation, this may indicate initial migration of immature DCs from head kidney and spleen to the injection site, followed by return to the spleen for maturation and antigen presentation. DC-SCRIPT may be a valuable tool in the investigation of antigen presentation in fish and facilitate optimisation of vaccines and adjuvants for aquaculture.

Pub.: 15 Jul '15, Pinned: 27 Jul '17

Immune transcriptome reveals the mincle C-type lectin receptor acts as a partial replacement for TLR4 in lipopolysaccharide-mediated inflammatory response in barramundi (Lates calcarifer).

Abstract: Fish represent the most diverse and abundant extant vertebrate infraclass. They are also one of the earliest divergent phyla with adaptive immunity based on antigen recognition by MHC and immunoglobulin. The aquaculture industry, which currently provides more than half of the fish for human consumption globally, has successfully exploited the adaptive immune system of fish through mass vaccination programs. However, vaccination against highly diverse antigens, mostly carbohydrates, such as capsular polysaccharides and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is challenging. Fish have a subdued innate response to LPS, but adaptive response is generally high and type-specific. To better understand the link between initial innate response and early onset of adaptive immunity to carbohydrate antigens in the perciform barramundi (Lates calcarifer), an immune transcriptome was prepared from pronephros and spleen following vaccination with LPS and peptidoglycan. From 163,661 transcripts derived by Illumina mRNA-Seq, most grouped in neuronal, endocrine or immune system categories, suggesting a close relationship between the three systems. Moreover, digestive enzyme transcripts in spleen appeared to be highly inducible in barramundi. Most of the known TLRs were transcribed in the barramundi spleen and HK transcriptome, with the notable exception of TLR4, which is primarily responsible for LPS recognition in mammals. Several C-type lectin receptors were also identified, including CD209, CD205, and CLEC4E (Mincle). As Mincle has been shown to bind LPS and is abundant on dendritic cells, its role in response to LPS in barramundi was further investigated. A high dose of LPS induced TNF-alpha expression via Mincle. However, IL-6 regulation, whilst still regulated in response to LPS, did not depend upon the Mincle pathway, suggesting other routes of activation. This study thus suggests that Mincle acts as a partial substitute for TLR4 in barramundi in the processing of LPS.

Pub.: 18 Jan '17, Pinned: 27 Jul '17