Madison L. Earhart, Jennifer L. Ali, William S. Bugg, Ken M. Jeffries, W. Gary Anderson. 2020. Endogenous cortisol production and its relationship with feeding transitions in larval lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A.
Our understanding of the importance of cortisol in the development of fishes largely stems from teleosts and in particular the zebrafish, Danio rerio. However, studies examining the ontogeny of the cortisol endocrine axis in acipenseriformes (sturgeon and paddlefish) have demonstrated similar general patterns during early development. Beginning with maternal deposition of cortisol in the egg, followed by development of de novo synthesis, a hypo-responsive period, and finally the ability of the fish to appropriately increase whole-body levels of cortisol in response to a stressor. In the present study, we demonstrate a similar pattern of ontogeny in the cortisol response in lake sturgeon over two-year classes. Whole-body levels of cortisol were examined over two cohorts and found to be different in both concentration and timing of endogenous production. The 2016 cohort were found to have relatively high levels of cortisol and developed to first feeding approximately six days faster than the 2017 cohort with lower levels of cortisol. In the 2017 cohort, mRNA expression of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) and glucocorticoid receptor 1 (GR1) increased just prior to the increase in cortisol and associated onset of exogenous feeding. Treatment in metyrapone, an inhibitor of 11β-hydroxylase, significantly inhibited cortisol production and resulted in the inability of the fish to appropriately transition to exogenous feeding. Data suggest a potential key role for cortisol in lake sturgeon as they transition between diets during early life history.