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No consistent explanation has been found for the variability in the thiaminase activity of alewives Alosa pseudoharengus despite the role of alewife thiaminase in large-scale salmonine mortality in the Laurentian Great Lakes. We conducted experiments to evaluate the effect of two stressors, reduced salt content in the water and food limitation, on alewife thiaminase activity. Alewives were subjected to treatments in replicated tanks in which conductivity was lowered (< 100 microS/cm) for 8 d and feeding was limited for 39 d. Circulating white blood cells, plasma cortisol, plasma glucose, and whole-body thiaminase were measured in individual alewives to assess their response to these experimental treatments. Alewives from the controls had significantly larger numbers of circulating white blood cells than those in the salt-reduced and food-limited treatments (24,000 and 19,000 cells/microL and 11,000 and 9,000 cells/microL for alewives from the two control and salt-reduced treatment tanks, respectively, and 34,000 and 30,000 cells/microL and 21,000 and 16,000 cells/microL for alewives from the two control and food-limited treatment tanks). No significant differences in alewife thiaminase activity were found between treatment fish and their controls. The mean thiaminase activity in the alewives studied increased from 6,900 to 16,000 pmol x g(-1) x min(-1) from the time of their collection in Cayuga Lake to the start of laboratory experiments 1.5-2.5 years later; the latter value was more than twice that of previously reported levels of thiaminase activity from alewives collected in the wild. These data suggest that the variability in alewife thiaminase is not related to stress from salt reduction or food limitation, but laboratory holding conditions significantly increased thiaminase through a mechanism not evaluated by our experimental treatments.


Jesse M Lepak, Clifford E Kraft, Dale C Honeyfield, Scott B Brown. Evaluating the effect of stressors on thiaminase activity in alewife. Journal of aquatic animal health. 2008 Mar;20(1):63-71

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PMID: 18536504

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