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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 61:199-213 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao061199

Pathogenesis of acute ulceration response (AUR) in hybrid striped bass

Pareeya Udomkusonsri1,2, Edward J. Noga1,*, Nancy A. Monteiro-Riviere1

1Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, USA
2Present address: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pharmacology, Kasetsart University, 50 Phahonyothin Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: In a previous study, we discovered that acute confinement stress causes rapid ulceration of the fins of hybrid striped bass Morone saxatilis female × M. chrysops male (Noga et al. 1998. Vet Pathol 35:102–107). In this paper, we report the development of a reproducible model for studying this phenomenon in juvenile hybrid striped bass. We also determined how quickly ulceration could develop in acutely stressed fish and documented the sequential light microscopic and ultrastructural changes associated with this response. When hybrid striped bass were subjected to a standardized confinement protocol, the pathological response was extremely rapid (fin ulceration began to develop within 15 min of confinement). Grossly, the distal edges of the fins became blanched, and melanophores aggregated near the basement membrane and dermis after 15 min of confinement. Microscopically, the earliest detectable change in the fins, which occurred within 15 min of confinement, was swelling and loss of microridges of the outermost epidermal cells; this was followed by epidermal erosion. After 30 min of stress, epidermal ulceration developed at the distal edges of the fins. At this time, both necrotic and apoptotic epidermal cells were present. The middle and basal epidermal layers were severely spongiotic and the dermis and hypodermis were edematous. Over longer periods (up to 2 h), lesions were similar but increasingly more severe, progressing from the distal edge of the fin towards the base. The response to acute stress showed a significant correlation between confinement period and severity of the pathological changes (epidermal degeneration, epidermal ulceration and leukocyte infiltration). Also, we demonstrated that epidermal damage was not restricted to the fins but also affected the body skin and eyes. The ventral area of the body and the corneal epithelium of stressed fish were ulcerated; however, skin on the head and operculum was not affected, suggesting a site-specific mode of damage. In stressed fish, epidermal ulceration was found in 67 to 97% of all fins, 88% of skin on the ventrum, and 67% of corneas, while control fish had only very mild epidermal ulceration in the few fish in which it was present (on 5 to 10% of the fins, but not on the ventral skin or corneas). Due to the widespread damage to epidermal tissues of the body surface, we have named this the acute ulceration response (AUR). Our study indicates that acute confinement can rapidly cause significant damage to epidermal and ocular epithelium. AUR might be a primary cause of morbidity in acutely stressed fish.

KEY WORDS: Skin ulceration · Striped bass · Acute stress · Pathology

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