Cortisol differentially affects cell viability and reproduction-related gene expression in Atlantic cod pituitary cultures dependent on stage of sexual maturation
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Through the action of cortisol, stress can affect reproductive biology with behavioural and physiological alterations. Using mixed sex primary pituitary cultures from Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), the present study aimed to investigate potential direct effects of basal and stress level cortisol on the pituitary in terms of cell viability and reproduction-related gene expression at different stages of sexual maturity. Stress level of cortisol stimulated cell viability in cells derived from sexually maturing and mature fish. In cells from spent fish, high cortisol levels did not affect cell viability in terms of metabolic activity, but did stimulate viability in terms of membrane integrity. Basal cortisol levels did not affect cell viability. Ethanol, used as solvent for cortisol, decreased cell viability at all maturity stages, but did generally not affect gene expression. Genes investigated were fshb, lhb and two Gnrh receptors expressed in cod gonadotropes (gnrhr1b and gnrhr2a). Cortisol had dual effects on fshb expression; stimulating expression in cells from mature fish at stress dose, while inhibiting expression in cells from spent fish at both doses. In contrast, cortisol had no direct effect on lhb expression. While gnrhr2a transcript levels largely increased following cortisol treatment, gnrhr1b expression decreased in cells from spent fish and was unaffected at other maturity stages. These findings demonstrate that cortisol can act directly and differentially at the pituitary level in Atlantic cod and that factors facilitating these actions are dose-dependently activated and vary with level of sexual maturity.