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Vitamin A deficiency suppresses fish immune function with differences in different intestinal segments: the role of transcriptional factor NF-κB and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling pathways

  • Li Zhang (a1), Lin Feng (a1) (a2) (a3), Wei-Dan Jiang (a1) (a2) (a3), Yang Liu (a1) (a2) (a3), Pei Wu (a1) (a2) (a3), Sheng-Yao Kuang (a4), Ling Tang (a4), Wu-Neng Tang (a4), Yong-An Zhang (a5) and Xiao-Qiu Zhou (a1) (a2) (a3)...


The present study investigated the effects of dietary vitamin A on immune function in the proximal intestine (PI), mid intestine (MI) and distal intestine (DI) of young grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). Fish were fed graded levels of dietary vitamin A for 10 weeks, and then a challenge test using an injection of Aeromonas hydrophila was conducted for 14 d. The results showed that, compared with the optimum vitamin A level, vitamin A deficiency significantly decreased fish growth performance, increased enteritis morbidity, decreased intestinal innate humoral immune response and aggravated intestinal inflammation. However, liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide 2A/B mRNA in the DI and IL-6, IL-17D, IL-10, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 and TGF-β2 mRNA in the PI were not affected by vitamin A levels. Meanwhile, vitamin A deficiency disturbed inflammatory cytokines in the PI, MI and DI, which might be partly linked to p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) signalling and NF-κB canonical signalling pathway (IκB kinase β (IKKβ), IKKγ, inhibitor of κBα, NF-κB p65 and c-Rel) rather than NF-κB non-canonical signalling pathway (NF-κB p52 and IKKα). However, the signalling molecules NF-κB p65 and p38MAPK did not participate in regulating cytokines in the PI. These results suggested that vitamin A deficiency decreased fish growth and impaired intestinal immune function, and that different immune responses in the PI, MI and DI were mediated partly by NF-κB canonical signalling and p38MAPK signalling pathways. On the basis of percentage of weight gain, to protect fish against enteritis morbidity and acid phosphatase activity, the optimum dietary vitamin A levels were estimated to be 0·664, 0·707 and 0·722 mg /kg, respectively.

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Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: X.-Q. Zhou, fax +86 835 2885968, email;


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These authors contributed equally to the present work.



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