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Prolonged apoptosis in mitochondria-rich cells of tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) exposed to elevated salinity


The time-course of programmed cell death (apoptosis) during reorganization of gill epithelium in salinity-stressed tilapia was analyzed using a recently developed method based on laser scanning cytometry (LSC) of dissociated gill cells. Apoptosis in mitochondria-rich cells (MRC) was distinguished from that in other cell types using Na+/K+ ATPase (NKA) as a cell-specific marker. Caspase 3/7 activity in MRC, assessed using LSC and microplate assays, increased significantly starting at 6 h of salinity stress and remained elevated for at least 5 days. This time-course of apoptosis in MRC during acute salinity stress was reflected in elevated apoptotic DNA fragmentation. In parallel to induction of apoptosis, MRC showed a pronounced shift to G2 phase of the cell cycle, which is indicative of G2/M cell cycle arrest, and an increase in NKA abundance per MRC. Unlike in MRC, apoptosis was not significantly increased in other gill cell types, although there was a small transient increase in DNA fragmentation at 6 h. G2 arrest was also observed. Overall, we interpret our data as evidence for a significant role of apoptosis in the extensive reorganization of MRC populations that takes place during salinity acclimation, perhaps similar to its well-established role during organismal development.

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