Kynurenine to tryptophan ratio as a biomarker of acute stress in fish Academic Article uri icon

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  • The aim of this study was to determine the kynurenine (KYN) to tryptophan (TRP) ratio (KTR) in fish tissue to assess its usefulness as a biomarker of acute stress. Laboratory held rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were subjected to an acute stressor and KYN, TRP and cortisol were measured in liver and brain tissues at 4- and 48-h post-stress. The analytical method used to determine our analytes was based on lyophilization, and liquid-solid extraction followed by isotope dilution high-performance liquid chromatography positive ion electrospray tandem mass spectrometry. The [KYN]/[TRP] ratio (KTR) was greater in fish liver and brain in the 48-h post-stress exposure group (n = 8) relative to controls (n = 8, p < 0.05); a similar increase was not observed in fish in the 4-h post-stress exposure group. Hepatic and brain cortisol levels were also elevated in fish from both stress-induced groups relative to their respective controls implying that cortisol responded more quickly to the stressful stimulus than KYN and TRP. Our results suggest that the KTR is a promising acute stress diagnostic biomarker in fish. Efforts are ongoing to assess whether the KTR can be used as a biomarker for chronic stress in fish exposed to aquatic contaminants and other environmental stressors and if similar assessments can be made on tissues collected via non-lethal approaches.


  • Wish, Jade
  • Bulloch, Patrique
  • Oswald, Lisa
  • Halldorson, Thor
  • Raine, Jason C
  • Jamshed, Laiba
  • Marvin, Chris
  • Thomas, Philippe J
  • Holloway, Alison
  • Tomy, Gregg T

publication date

  • February 2022