DAO 59:195-203 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao059195

Quantitative real-time RT-PCR demonstrates that handling stress can lead to rapid increases of gill-associated virus (GAV) infection levels in Penaeus monodon

Enrique de la Vega1,2,*, Bernard M. Degnan2, Michael R. Hall1, Jeff A. Cowley3, Kate J. Wilson1

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
2Department of Zoology and Entomology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
3CSIRO Livestock Industries, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St. Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia

ABSTRACT: Gill-associated virus (GAV) of the black tiger prawn Penaeus monodon has been implicated as a cause of periodic production losses in Australia since 1996. We report here the development of a real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) for GAV. A dilution series of in vitro transcribed RNA was used to determine the sensitivity limit of the qRT-PCR and as a standard for GAV quantification. A linear relationship between cycle threshold (Ct) values and input RNA was obtained over a wide concentration range between 4.86 × 109 and 0.5 template copies per reaction, the latter being the test detection limit. The qRT-PCR was used to follow the progression of GAV levels in a group of 15 adult male P. monodon with chronic GAV infections that were super-infected by intramuscular injection of an inoculum containing high levels of GAV. By Day 9 post-injection, cumulative mortalities reached 100% (15/15) in the GAV-injected prawns and 40% (2/5) in placebo-injected prawns. Spermatophores were collected at the beginning, and together with other tissues, at the end of the trial. Prawns were also bled at regular intervals to collect circulating haemocytes. The qRT-PCR revealed that GAV loads increased significantly in haemocytes collected from both the control and super-infected prawns (p = 0.010). This increase was significantly higher in the super-infected prawns (p = 0.047). The rapid increase in GAV levels in super-infected P. monodon was expected. However, the increase in the control prawns was not, and indicates that repetitive bleeding and handling stress can stimulate GAV proliferation in chronically infected P. monodon.

KEY WORDS: Penaeus monodon · Gill-associated virus · Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR)

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