The effect of reduced feed ration on infestation levels with the sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis and gene expression in juvenile pink salmon Oncorhynchus gorbuscha was tested in three laboratory trials. Body weight was significantly lower among fish on the reduced ration for 27, 34, or 65 d than fish on the full ration. Neither the prevalence nor the abundance of L. salmonis differed between fish on full and reduced rations at any time in any trial. In trial 2, sea louse rejection was delayed among fish on reduced rations; however, the parasite was ultimately rejected from all fish in this trial regardless of ration. Proinflammatory gene expression in salmon exposed to L. salmonis was modulated by reduced rations. There was a reduction in the expression of interleukin-8 in pink salmon on reduced rations 7 d after exposure but not 14 d after exposure. In contrast, the 7-d expression of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta) was reduced in exposed pink salmon regardless of ration. By day 14, however, expression of IL-1beta was increased in association with reduced rations among exposed salmon. Similarly, the expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) was increased 14 d after exposure among salmon on a reduced ration. There was no evidence that short-duration exposure of otherwise healthy juvenile pink salmon to a reduced ration affected susceptibility to L. salmonis. The expression data do not suggest an obvious mechanism of louse rejection; rather, they indicate that a more comprehensive suite of inflammatory pathways should be surveyed to better understand the early pink salmon response to L. salmonis.
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