Mucosal Health

Mucosal Health in Aquaculture Cover The buzz is through the roof for “Mucosal Health in Aquaculture” a textbook edited by Ben Beck and myself…available NOW from Elsevier, Amazon, or wherever obscure academic texts are sold.  Go ahead and order a few copies for loved ones for any special occasion.


Mucosal Immunity in Teleost Fish–What’s All this Slime For?

We are interested in characterizing the immune actors and events taking place at the mucosal surfaces of fish–skin, gill, and intestine.  These surfaces are believed to be the attachment points for most major bacterial and viral pathogens, but are often overlooked in disease studies which focus on classical secondary lymphoid structures such as spleen and head kidney.  Additionally the external mucosal surfaces of fish are known to integrate complicated social, environmental, and nutritional cues received through the water. These cues are believed to change the composition/prevalence of epithelial barriers, goblet cells, and mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues. Surface receptor expression and the volume and nature of secreted mucus are additionally impacted.

Questions we’re asking:

What are the host immune actors at these surfaces?
The innate immune diversity of teleosts is amazing and still poorly characterized at these surfaces.
What are the routes of pathogen attachment and entry, and can we make them inaccessible through nutrition/prophylactics?
How do the pathogens (F. columnare, E. ictaluri, and A. hydrophila are our models) get into susceptible fish?  What keeps them out in resistant fish? How can nutritional supplements or chemicals change this mucosal dynamic (exclusion/stimulation)?
Which mucosal host genes may serve as candidate biomarkers for resistance and susceptibility?
There is tremendous variation in natural susceptibility to infection among aquaculture species waiting to be explained and exploited.  Much of it appears to be explained by the differential ability to resist infection, rather than by differences in resolving systemic infection.
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Ongoing projects:

1) Impacts on mucosal immunity from short-term feed deprivation (now published)
2) Altering diets to stimulate different levels of goblet cell proliferation, mucin secretion (collaborative with USDA Stuttgart)
3) What nutrient sensing/absorbing functions are present in surface mucosa?
4) Rhamnose-binding lectin diversity in channel catfish (now published)
5) How do columnaris strains with drastically different virulence alter their gene expression in the presence of catfish mucus?
6) How do mucosal immune responses differ with catfish fry age and in response to virulent and avirulent (vaccine) F. columnare strains? (coming soon!)
7) How do channel, blue, and hybrid catfish differ in their gill and intestinal mucosal microbiome diversity?
Questions?  Interested in more details?  See our recent publications and contact us.