Thermal acclimation alters both basal heat shock protein gene expression and the heat shock response in juvenile lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
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Long-term temperature shifts associated with seasonal variability are common in temperate regions. However, these natural shifts could place significant strain on thermal stress responses of fishes when combined with mean increases in water temperatures predicted by climate change models. We examined the relationship between thermal acclimation, basal expression of heat shock protein (hsp) genes and the activation of the heat shock response (HSR) in lake whitefish (LWF; Coregonus clupeaformis), a cold water species of cultural and commercial significance. Juveniles were acclimated to either 6, 12, or 18°C water for several months prior to the quantification of hsp mRNA levels in the presence or absence of acute heat shock (HS). Acclimation to 18°C increased basal mRNA levels of hsp70 and hsp47, but not hsc70 or hsp90β in gill, liver and white muscle, while 6°C acclimation had no effect on basal hsp transcription. Fish in all acclimation groups were capable of eliciting a robust HSR following acute HS, as indicated by the upregulation of hsp70 and hsp47. An increase of only 2°C above the 18°C acclimation temperature was required to trigger these transcriptional changes, suggesting that the HSR may be frequently initiated in LWF populations living at mildly elevated temperatures. Collectively, these expression profiles show that environmental temperature influences both basal hsp levels and the HSR in LWF, and indicate that these fish may have a greater physiological and ecological susceptibility to elevated temperatures than to cooler temperatures.