Hormonal induction of spermiation, previously reported to be immunogenic in fishes, is a common hatchery practice in pikeperch, Sander lucioperca. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of repeated induction of spermiation in pikeperch, following application of either human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or salmon gonadoliberine analogue (sGnRHa) on sperm quality indices as well as on immune and stress response. Mature males of pikeperch (n = 7 per group) were stimulated twice with five days between injections of either hCG (hCG; 500 IU kg−1), sGnRHa (sGnRHa; 50 μg kg−1) or NaCl (control group; 1 ml kg−1) to assess spermatozoa motility with a computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA) system. During second sampling, blood plasma was sampled for humoral innate immune (peroxidase and lysozyme activities, ACH50), stress (cortisol, glucose) and endocrine (testosterone) markers. In addition, the head kidney was dissected to assay the expression of several immune genes (such as il1, c3, hamp, tnf-α and lys genes). The results indicate that hormonal treatment significantly increased sperm production. Sperm sampled after the hormonal treatment maintained its quality throughout the study, regardless of the sampling time. However, it appears that the application of hCG induced elevated cortisol and glucose plasma levels compared to the control group. Almost all immune markers, except the relative expression of hepcidin (hamp gene), were unaffected by the two hormones applied. The results showed that the induction treatment of spermiation processes in pikeperch resulted in an important physiological stress response for which the intensity varied according to the hormonal agent used. However, this stress response (more profound following application of hCG) was weakly associated with innate immune functions. On the other hand, a significant negative correlation between the expression of several important immune markers (peroxidase activity, relative expression of c3 and il1 genes) and sperm quality indices indicates significant involvement of immune status on sperm quality. The results obtained shed light on immune-system-induced modifications to sperm quality. The data presented here highlight the need for careful revision of broodstock management and selection practices where welfare status as well as individual predispositions of fish to cope with the stress should be taken under the consideration.
- Sperm quality