Chronic cortisol and the regulation of food intake and the endocrine growth axis in rainbow trout

    1. Nicholas J Bernier
    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to N J Bernier; Email: nbernier{at}


    To gain a better understanding of the mechanisms by which cortisol suppresses growth during chronic stress in fish, we characterized the effects of chronic cortisol on food intake, mass gain, the expression of appetite-regulating factors, and the activity of the GH/IGF axis. Fish given osmotic pumps that maintained plasma cortisol levels at ∼70 or 116 ng/ml for 34 days were sampled 14, 28 and 42 days post-implantation. Relative to shams, the cortisol treatments reduced food intake by 40–60% and elicited marked increases in liver leptin (lep-a1) and brain preoptic area (POA) corticotropin-releasing factor (crf) mRNA levels. The cortisol treatments also elicited 40–80% reductions in mass gain associated with increases in pituitary gh, liver gh receptor (ghr), liver igfI and igf binding protein (igfbp)-1 and -2 mRNA levels, reduced plasma GH and no change in plasma IGF1. During recovery, while plasma GH and pituitary gh, liver ghr and igfI gene expression did not differ between treatments, the high cortisol-treated fish had lower plasma IGF1 and elevated liver igfbp1 mRNA levels. Finally, the cortisol-treated fish had higher plasma glucose levels, reduced liver glycogen and lipid reserves, and muscle lipid content. Thus, our findings suggest that the growth-suppressing effects of chronic cortisol in rainbow trout result from reduced food intake mediated at least in part by increases in liver lep-a1 and POA crf mRNA, from sustained increases in hepatic igfbp1 expression that reduce the growth-promoting actions of the GH/IGF axis, and from a mobilization of energy reserves.

    • Received in final form 9 June 2015
    • Accepted 18 June 2015
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 22 June 2015
    | Table of Contents