Projects per year
Recent decades have seen a significant intensification of aquaculture leading to increased risk of infections with several pathogenic organisms. On economical and ethical grounds it is more appropriate to improve general welfare conditions and prevent infections rather than treating disease outbreaks once they have occurred. Immunostimulation through feed can provide more efficient and sustainable control of diseases in aquaculture through enhancing the immunocompetence of fish; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly characterized. The overall aim of this thesis was to perform a molecular and functional characterization of how pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), such as β-glucans, affect the innate immune response of carp and which receptors on carp leukocytes are likely candidates to play a role in sensing such PAMPs.
In chapter 1 we provide a framework for this thesis by introducing different classes of PAMPs, including β-glucans. These molecules were the centrepiece of an intra-European training network called NEMO (Protective immune modulation in warm water fish by feeding glucans), which this PhD project was part of. The scientific aim of the NEMO network was to develop a sustainable and cost-effective use of β-glucans as immunostimulants for aquaculture, using common carp as the model fish species, since on a global scale common carp is the most cultured fish species for food consumption. Our aims within the NEMO project entailed both the characterization of carp leukocytes and the characterization of candidate pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that could play a role in sensing PAMPs and initiating immune responses. Chapter 1 therefore introduces the thrombocytes and macrophages pertinent to this thesis, as well as important classes of PRRs.
In our first experimental study, described in chapter 2, we investigated the relevance of thrombocytes for the immune system of carp. We found that thrombocytes from healthy carp express a large number of immune-relevant genes, among which several cytokines and Toll-like receptors (Tlrs). Furthermore, we dissected the role of thrombocytes during infections with two different, albeit related, protozoan parasites, Trypanoplasma borreli and Trypanosoma carassii, and found thrombocytes were massively depleted from blood and spleen of fish infected with T. borreli. The pathology of this infection is associated with elevated levels of tissue nitration, prompting us to investigate, ex vivo, the effect of nitric oxide on thrombocytes. Our studies revealed that nitric oxide can induce a clear and rapid apoptosis of thrombocytes from healthy carp, supporting a role for nitric oxide-mediated control of immune-relevant thrombocytes during infection with T. borreli. Thereby, this particular study provided an excellent example of interplay between pathogen and the innate immune system of carp.
We reviewed in chapter 3 another cell type central to innate immunity: the macrophage. We focused on the heterogeneity of macrophage activation states as these cells, at least in humans and mice, have the ability to polarize in several directions during an immune response. Based on the signals that lead to activation and the effector functions and cytokine profile as a result thereof, macrophages can be broadly divided into two types: classically activated macrophages induced in a T helper 1 (TH1) cytokine environment, and alternatively activated macrophages, induced in a TH2 cytokine environment. Mirroring the TH1–TH2 dichotomy, classically activated macrophages have also been termed M1, whereas alternatively activated macrophages have been termed M2. Classically activated macrophages are typically induced by stimulation with microbial ligands such as LPS in combination with pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IFNγ, and can be viewed as an extension of innate activated macrophages which are induced by microbial ligands only, thus are independent of cytokines. Alternatively activated macrophages are generated in the presence of IL4 and/or IL13. In addition to M1 and M2, one can distinguish regulatory macrophages, which are associated with the presence of the cytokine IL10. In this chapter, we reviewed the evidence of existence of polarized macrophages in teleost fish, among other things based on observations of the fundamentally different immune responses elicited by the parasites T. borreli and T. carassii.
We further investigated the polarization of carp macrophages in chapter 4, where we obtained gene signature profiles of carp macrophages via a transcriptome approach. Independently of cytokines, carp macrophages showed the ability to differentiate into cells with functional characteristics highly comparable to those of mammalian M1 and M2, consistent with a conserved ability of macrophages to polarize into distinct subsets. In addition to obtaining a global view of gene expression, our transcriptome approach identified gene signatures for M1 and M2 macrophages which appear conserved from fish to mammals. We selected a number of these interesting genes that were differentially regulated between M1 and M2 macrophages and discussed in detail five potential M1 markers; il1β, ptx3a, saa, nos2b, and il12a – as well as five potential M2 markers; cyr61, inhba, timp2, tgm2, and arg2. These transcriptome studies may pave the way for future studies of polarized macrophages during immune responses in fish. Furthermore, additional analyses of the datasets described in this chapter will undoubtedly lead to the characterization of more genes relevant to macrophage polarization and recognition of immunostimulants.
As part of the characterization of candidate PRRs that could play a role in sensing PAMPs and initiating immune responses, we studied the scavenger receptor Cd36 (chapter 5), which in mammals is expressed by many different (immune) cell types and plays a role in highly diverse processes, both homeostatic and pathologic. Among other things, it is often found associated with sensing of β-glucans and also with M2 macrophage activation, sparking our interest in this molecule in fish. We studied Cd36 in common carp as well as in zebrafish, a closely related cyprinid fish species. Whereas a single cd36 gene is present in zebrafish, carp was shown to have two paralogs of cd36. Although all genes show conserved synteny compared to mammalian CD36, unexpectedly we could not detect gene expression of cyprinid cd36 in macrophages or any other immune cell type or immune organ. Yet, because gene expression of cd36 was down-regulated during Mycobacterium marinum infection of zebrafish, and knockdown of cd36 in zebrafish embryos led to higher bacterial burden upon such infection, our data imply a role for Cd36 in immune responses of fish. Future studies are needed to clarify the exact mechanisms involved.
As characterization of candidate PRRs we also examined the Toll-like receptors Tlr1 and Tlr2 (chapter 6). We identified a full-length, expressed tlr1 gene, a tlr1 pseudogene, and a second tlr2 gene next to the tlr2 which had been described previously. Sequence, phylogenetic and synteny analyses supported the conserved nature of these genes, and three-dimensional modelling showed a good fit with the mammalian TLR1/TLR2 heterodimer including the potential to bind to the prototypical ligand Pam3CSK4. However, we were unable to demonstrate Tlr1/Tlr2-mediated ligand binding in transfected cell lines through NFκB activation, despite showing the expression and co-localization of Tlr1 and Tlr2. This prompted a discussion of methods available for studying ligand-binding properties of fish Tlrs.
Finally, we discuss in chapter 7 the findings of this thesis in the context of the NEMO project. We present the concept of trained immunity, which could provide the conceptual framework within which the immune-stimulating ability of compounds such as β-glucans could be explained. We discuss recent advances in the field of TLR research as well as that of macrophage polarization, and highlight immunometabolism as a new area of interest which may help to illuminate the molecular events occurring in immune cells during health and disease. In conclusion, we found that carp leukocytes, along with their pattern recognition receptors, are central players of the innate immune system of carp. Our findings contribute to the understanding of mechanisms of immunostimulation, and expect this will enable the valorisation and use of immunostimulants for sustainable aquaculture and improvement of fish health.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||13 Mar 2017|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
- macrophage activation
1/09/09 → 13/03/17
1/10/08 → 30/11/12
Project: EU research project