Principal Investigator
Benjamin Costas Refojos

Leader Institution

Research Teams


PANDORAA: Unravelling the functional importance of amino acids in the fish neuroendocrine-immune network

Fish welfare is currently an important issue due to both ethical issues and production advantages. The role of neuroendocrine mechanisms directly affecting the building of the immune response and their consequences still need to be unravelled. A new field of research, nutritional immunology, is arising in the aquaculture field. Whereas most research is focusing on probiotics and glucans as immunostimulants, amino acids (AA) have received little attention. AA can be converted into important biochemically active substances and the beneficial effects that AA supplementation presents for fish have been already reported. Therefore, nutritional strategies to modulate immune and stress responses seem to be a valuable tool for fish farm production. For instance, neuroendocrine modulation through dietary intervention may regulate inflammation to reach an optimum defence while preventing excessive host cell damage.
AA requirements may increase as a direct consequence of metabolic changes associated with distress and infection in higher vertebrates. However, little is known about the specific fate of AA arbitrating the elaborate neuroendocrine-immune (NEI) network. The PANDORAA project will use an innovative multidisciplinary approach that aims to explore the links between AA nutrition and NEI plasticity. State-of-the-art methodologies will be employed through in vitro and in vivo approaches with special attention given both to the first steps of stress perception (including infection) and chronic stress. The applicant will focus on the pathways, receptors and mechanisms involved in teleost fish which form an excellent model to reveal phylogenetically old and original mechanisms of stress physiology and immunology. The transcriptional and proteome analyses proposed in the present application will also be suited for the identification of new biomarkers of acute and/or chronic stress responses, which may provide the basis for the development of operational welfare indicators in order to monitor and safeguard the welfare of farmed fish. Knowledge gathered from the present application should allow the improvement of functional commercial diets for farmed fish, hence improving aquaculture profitability in terms of disease resistance.