Effects of long-term cortisol treatments on gonadal development, sex steroids levels and ovarian cortisol content in cultured great sturgeon Huso huso
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The objective of this study was to examine the effect of cortisol implantations on gonadal development, sex steroid levels, and ovarian cortisol content in cultured great sturgeon Huso huso. Three groups of 5 fish for each treatment were considered. The experimental groups included: control (capsules containing cocoa butter alone), low cortisol (C(5); 5mg cortisol/kg body mass+cocoa butter) and, high cortisol (C(50); 50mg cortisol/kg body mass+cocoa butter). The capsules containing hormones and cocoa butter were intraperitoneally implanted into 3-year-old female fish at pre-vitellogenic stage (mean initial body mass 6809.7 ± 73 g) every 6 weeks over a 6-month period from January to June. The serum levels of cortisol, glucose, cholesterol and sex steroids (testosterone and 17β-estradiol) were determined at the initial time and three weeks after each implantation. Oocyte histological characteristics (the diameter and area of the oocyte, the diameter and area of the nucleus and the ratio of the nucleus area to the oocyte area) were measured at the end of the experiment and compared to those at the initial time. Ovarian cortisol content was measured at the end of the experiment. The results showed that serum cortisol levels varied in a dose-independent manner, so that the highest cortisol concentrations were observed in C(5)-treated fish throughout the experiment. Serum glucose levels were significantly higher in cortisol-treated groups than those in the control group. The high dose of cortisol elicited a significant constant increase in serum cholesterol concentrations. Fish implanted with the high cortisol dose showed significant declines in serum testosterone and 17β-estradiol concentrations throughout the experiment. No significant differences were found in oocyte histological characteristics among experimental groups. The cortisol implants elicited a dose-dependent increase in ovarian cortisol content. At the end of trial, body-growth indices were the lowest in C(50)-implanted fish, while the low cortisol dose had no effect on growth relative to the controls. These results indicated that chronic stress induced by cortisol implantation in great sturgeon suppressed gonadal steroidogenesis and somatic growth but had no effect on ovarian growth and development.