mRNA-seq reveals skeletal muscle atrophy in response to handling stress in a marine teleost, the red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis)

Jorge E. Aedo, Jonathan Maldonado, Víctor Aballai, Juan M. Estrada, Macarena Bastias-Molina, Claudio Meneses, Cristian Gallardo-Escarate, Herman Silva, Alfredo Molina, Juan A. Valdés

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Fish reared under intensive conditions are repeatedly exposed to stress, which negatively impacts growth. Although most fish follow a conserved pattern of stress response, with increased concentrations of cortisol, each species presents specificities in the cell response and stress tolerance. Therefore, culturing new species requires a detailed knowledge of these specific responses. The red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis) is a new economically important marine species for the Chilean aquaculture industry. However, there is no information on the stress- and cortisol-induced mechanisms that decrease skeletal muscle growth in this teleost. Results: Using Illumina RNA-seq technology, skeletal muscle sequence reads for G. chilensis were generated under control and handling stress conditions. Reads were mapped onto a reference transcriptome, resulting in the in silico identification of 785 up-regulated and 167 down-regulated transcripts. Gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed a significant upregulation of catabolic genes associated with skeletal muscle atrophy. These results were validated by RT-qPCR analysis for ten candidates genes involved in ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, autophagy and skeletal muscle growth. Additionally, using a primary culture of fish skeletal muscle cells, the effect of cortisol was evaluated in relation to red cusk-eel skeletal muscle atrophy. Conclusions: The present data demonstrated that handling stress promotes skeletal muscle atrophy in the marine teleost G. chilensis through the expression of components of the ubiquitin-proteasome and autophagy-lysosome systems. Furthermore, cortisol was a powerful inductor of skeletal muscle atrophy in fish myotubes. This study is an important step towards understanding the atrophy system in non-model teleost species and provides novel insights on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control skeletal muscle growth in early vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1024
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Cortisol
  • Genypterus chilensis
  • Handling stress
  • Red cusk-eel
  • Skeletal muscle atrophy
  • mRNA-seq

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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