Responses to pathogen exposure in sentinel juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River, CA

Conserv Physiol. 2023 Aug 28;11(1):coad066. doi: 10.1093/conphys/coad066. eCollection 2023.


This study investigated how the deployment of juvenile Chinook salmon in ambient river conditions and the subsequent exposure to and infection by pathogens was associated with the changes in the expression of genes involved in immune system functioning, general stress and host development. Juvenile fish were deployed in sentinel cages for 21 days in the Sacramento River, CA, USA. Gill, kidney and intestinal tissue were sampled at 0, 7, 14 and 21 days post-deployment. Pathogen detection and host response were assessed by a combination of molecular and histopathological evaluation. Our findings showed that fish became infected by the parasites Ceratonova shasta, Parvicapsula minibicornis and Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, and to a lesser extent, the bacteria Flavobacterium columnare and Rickettsia-like organisms. Co-infection was common among sentinel fish. Expression of investigated genes was altered following deployment and was often associated with pathogen abundance. This study provides a foundation for future avenues of research investigating pathogens that affect out-migrating Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River, and offers crucial knowledge related to conservation efforts.

Keywords: Chinook salmon; gene expression; pathogens.