DAO 48:79-90 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/dao048079

Evidence for apoptosis correlated with mortality in the giant black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon infected with yellow head virus

Kornnika Khanobdee1, Chumporn Soowannayan1, T. W. Flegel1, Sukathida Ubol2, Boonsirm Withyachumnarnkul1,*

1Centex Shrimp, and
2Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama 6 Rd., Bangkok 10400, Thailand
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Histological, cytochemical and ultrastructural changes in giant black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon were investigated at various time intervals after injection with yellow head virus (YHV). Hemocytes, lymphoid organs (LO) and gills were the main focus of the study. After injection with YHV, onset of mortality varied from 36 h onward. By normal hematoxylin and eosin staining, the 3 tissues showed clear and increasing prevalence of nuclear condensation, pyknosis and karyorrhexis from approximately 36 h post-injection (p.i.) until death, although pathology was evident in the LO as early as 12 h p.i. in some shrimp. By nuclear DNA staining with 4¹,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) and by specific labeling of 3¹-OH ends of nuclear DNA using a technique called terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxy-UTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL), cells of the 3 tissues showed evidence of chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation, respectively. Both are generally considered to be characteristic of apoptosis. In addition to TUNEL labeling, evidence for DNA fragmentation was supported by the appearance of ~200 base pair DNA ladders at approximately 48 h p.i. in hemocytes of YHV-infected but not uninfected shrimp. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of LO tissue revealed features of apoptosis in tissues of YHV-infected shrimp only. These included marginated, condensed and fragmented chromatin without concurrent cytoplasmic damage. Histological, cytochemical, ultrastructural and biochemical data were consistent with the hypothesis that widespread and progressive apoptosis occurred in susceptible shrimp infected with YHV. Although no specific tests were carried out to determine whether this purported apoptosis was the cause of mortality, moribund shrimp had extensive deterioration of vital tissues such as the hemolymph, gills, heart and LO, suggesting that many essential bodily functions had been severely compromised. This probably resulted in the gross signs of lethargy and weakness seen, and it is reasonable to suggest that further, progressive deterioration could have led to the collapse of vital functions followed by death.


KEY WORDS: Yellow head virus · Yellow head disease · Penaeus monodon · Apoptosis


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