Expression of gonadotropin subunits in roach (Rutilus rutilus, Cyprinidae) infected with plerocercoids of the tapeworm Ligula intestinalis (Cestoda: Bothriocephalidea).
Plerocercoids of the tapeworm Ligula intestinalis (Cestoda: Bothriocephalidea) have been reported to inhibit gametogenesis of their intermediate fish hosts. However, mechanistic studies are rare and the proximate cues leading to impaired reproduction still remain unknown. In the present study we investigated the effects of infection by L. intestinalis on reproductive parameters of roach (Rutilus rutilus, Cyprinidae), a common fish host of this parasite. Field studies on roach demonstrated that in both genders infection prevented gonad development. As revealed by quantitative PCR, infection was accompanied by essentially lower pituitary expression of follicle-stimulating hormone β-subunit (FSHβ) and luteinizing hormone β-subunit (LHβ) mRNA compared with uninfected roach, providing clear evidence for gonadotropin-insufficiency as the cause of arrested gametogenesis. Under controlled laboratory conditions infected roach showed lower mRNA levels of FSHβ but not of LHβ, despite histology revealing similar gonad stages as in uninfected conspecifics. These findings indicate the involvement of FSH rather than LH in mediating effects of infection early during gonad development in roach. Moreover, the impact of L. intestinalis on reproductive parameters of roach appeared to be independent of the parasite burden. Together, these data provide valuable information on the role of FSH and LH as mediators of parasite-induced sterilization in a vertebrate and implicate the selective inhibition of host reproduction by L. intestinalis as a natural source of endocrine disruption in fish.
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