Malate enhances survival of zebrafish against Vibrio alginolyticus infection in the same manner as taurine

Virulence. 2020 Dec;11(1):349-364. doi: 10.1080/21505594.2020.1750123.


Development of low-cost and eco-friendly approaches to fight bacterial pathogens is especially needed in aquaculture. We previously showed that exogenous malate reprograms zebrafish's metabolome to potentiate zebrafish survival against Vibrio alginolyticus infection. However, the underlying mechanism is unknown. Here, we use GC-MS based metabolomics to identify the malate-triggered metabolic shift. An activated TCA cycle and elevated taurine are identified as the key metabolic pathways and the most crucial biomarker of the reprogrammed metabolome, respectively. Taurine elevation is attributed to the activated TCA cycle, which is further supported by the increased expression of genes in the metabolic pathway of taurine biosynthesis from the isocitrate of the TCA cycle to taurine. Exogenous taurine increases the survival of zebrafish against V. alginolyticus infection as malate did. Moreover, exogenous taurine and malate regulate the expression of innate immunity genes and promote the generation of reactive oxygen species and nitrogen oxide in a similar way. The two metabolites can alleviate the excessive immune response to bacterial challenge, which protects fish from bacterial infection. These results indicate that malate enhances the survival of zebrafish to V. alginolyticus infection via taurine. Thus, our study highlights a metabolic approach to enhance a host's ability to fight bacterial infection.

Keywords: Taurine; Vibrio alginolyticus; aquaculture; malate; reprogramming metabolomics; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquaculture
  • Fish Diseases / immunology
  • Fish Diseases / microbiology*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Malates / pharmacology*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Metabolomics
  • Taurine / pharmacology*
  • Vibrio Infections / immunology
  • Vibrio Infections / microbiology*
  • Vibrio alginolyticus / pathogenicity*
  • Zebrafish / immunology
  • Zebrafish / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / microbiology*


  • Malates
  • Taurine

Grant support

This work was sponsored by grants from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2018YFD0900504), NSFC project (U1701235), Pilot National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (Qingdao) (BH-A10) and Science and technology plan project of Guangzhou (201904020042).