Differential Metabolic and Transcriptional Responses of Gilthead Seabream (Sparus aurata) Administered with Cortisol or Cortisol-BSA

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Cortisol is the main glucocorticoid hormone promoting compensatory metabolic responses of stress in teleosts. This hormone acts through genomic and membrane-initiated actions to exert its functions inside the cell. Experimental approaches, using exogenous cortisol administration, confirm the role of this hormone during short (minutes to hours)- and long-term (days to weeks) responses to stress. The role of membrane-initiated cortisol signaling during long-term responses has been recently explored. In this study, Sparus aurata were intraperitoneally injected with coconut oil alone or coconut oil containing cortisol, cortisol-BSA, or BSA. After 3 days of treatment, plasma, liver, and skeletal muscle were extracted. Plasma cortisol, as well as metabolic indicators in the plasma and tissues collected, and metabolism-related gene expression, were measured. Our results showed that artificially increased plasma cortisol levels in S. aurata enhanced plasma glucose and triacylglycerols values as well as hepatic substrate energy mobilization. Additionally, cortisol stimulated hepatic carbohydrates metabolism, as seen by the increased expression of metabolism-related genes. All of these responses, observed in cortisol-administered fish, were not detected by replicating the same protocol and instead using cortisol-BSA, which exclusively induces membrane-initiated effects. Therefore, we suggest that after three days of cortisol administration, only genomic actions are involved in the metabolic responses in S. aurata.