Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon exhibit highly divergent transcriptomic responses to acute heat stress

Comp Biochem Physiol Part D Genomics Proteomics. 2023 Mar;45:101058. doi: 10.1016/j.cbd.2023.101058. Epub 2023 Jan 16.


In comparison to most modern teleost fishes, sturgeons generally display muted stress responses. While a muted stress response appears to be ubiquitous across sturgeon species, the mechanisms unpinning this muted response have not been fully described. The objective of this study was to determine the patterns of hematological and transcriptomic change in muscle tissue following an acute high temperature stress (critical thermal maxima; CTmax) in two locally co-occurring but evolutionarily distant sturgeon species (Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon). The most striking pattern found was that Atlantic sturgeon launched a vigorous transcriptomic response at CTmax, whereas shortnose sturgeon did not. In contrast, shortnose sturgeon have significantly higher cortisol than Atlantics at CTmax, reconfirming that shortnose have a less muted cortisol stress response. Atlantic sturgeon downregulated a number of processes, included RNA creation/processing, methylation and immune processes. Furthermore, a number of genes related to heat shock proteins were differentially expressed at CTmax in Atlantic sturgeon but none of these genes were significantly changed in shortnose sturgeon. We also note that the majority of differentially expressed genes of both species are undescribed and have no known orthologues. These results suggest that, while sturgeons as a whole may show muted stress responses, individual sturgeon species likely use different inducible strategies to cope with acute high temperature stress.

Keywords: Cortisol; Heat shock proteins; RNA-seq; Sturgeon; Thermal stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Heat-Shock Response / genetics
  • Hydrocortisone*
  • Transcriptome*


  • Hydrocortisone