Anguillicola crassus impairs the silvering-related enhancements of the ROS defense capacity in swimbladder tissue of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla)
In a process called silvering, European eels prepare for their long-distance migration from European freshwater systems to the Sargasso Sea for reproduction. During this journey, eels perform extended diel vertical migrations, and the concomitant changes in hydrostatic pressure significantly affect the swimbladder, functioning as a buoyancy organ. As the swimbladder is primarily filled with oxygen, the tissue has to cope with extreme hyperoxic conditions, which typically are accompanied by the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. In addition, since the introduction of the parasitic nematode Anguillicola crassus in the early 1980s, swimbladder function of most of the European eels is impaired by the infection with this parasite. However, the exact pathways to detoxify ROS and how these pathways are affected by silvering or the infection are still unknown. In swimbladder and muscle tissue from uninfected and infected yellow, and from uninfected and infected silver eels, we measured the level of lipid peroxidation, which increases with ROS stress. To assess the capacity of the ROS defense systems, we analyzed the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione reductase (GR), and determined the concentration of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH + GSSG). In swimbladder tissue, we found increased concentrations of GSH + GSSG as well as higher activities of SOD, GPx and GR, suggesting that SOD and the glutathione cycle are important for ROS detoxification. Comparing swimbladder tissue of uninfected yellow with uninfected silver eels, the concentration of GSH + GSSG and the activity of SOD were higher after silvering, corresponding with lower levels of lipid peroxidation. Whereas in yellow eels the infection with A. crassus had no effect, in silver eels the capacity to cope with ROS was significantly impaired. In muscle tissue, silvering or the infection only affected the activity of SOD but in exactly the same way as in swimbladder tissue.