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The functions and endocrine control of epithelial mucus secretion in the family Cottidae Marshall, William Smithson

Abstract

The mucus coat on the skin and gill of fishes serves a variety of protective functions including lubrication of the body surface, prevention of infection, and deterrence of parasites. Since mucus secretion in some teleosts appears to be controlled by the osmoregulatory hormones, prolactin and Cortisol, it was thought that the mucus coat may participate in teleost hydromineral balance. The primary objective of this study was to -examine the possible role of mucus in-osmoregulation of Leptocottus arma- tus Girard 1854 (Teleostei, Cottidae) and to relate these findings to the -endocrine control of mucus secretion. Whereas Leptocottus skin includes three types of secretory cells (eosinophilic granular, goblet, and cuticle-secreting cells) , the gill epithelium -has only goblet cells. Of ten cottid species examined histochemically, only seawater sculpins produce neutral mucins, while fresh water, seawater, and euryhaline species produce acidic mucins. Leptocottus primarily secretes a sialoglycoprotein, though sulphated mucins are present in gill goblet cells and the cuticle-secreting cells. The granular cells produce a tryptophan-rich basic protein. - Hypophysectomy or seawater adaptation reduce the number of gill goblet cells, compared to respective sham-operated or 5% seawater-acclimated controls. Ovine prolactin treatment of hypophysectomized fish prevented this decrease. In seawater-acclimated Leptocottus prolactin injections increase the number of gill mucus cells, while Cortisol injections of 5% "seawater-adapted fish had the opposite effect. The cuticle-secreting cells were most active in 5% seawater-adapted fish and this state was maintained by prolactin. A moderately active state was typical of seawater-adapted fish and this condition could be maintained by Cortisol or ovine growth hormone. The lowest activity of the cuticle-secreting cells occurred in hypophysectomized fish. Though prolactin and Cortisol appear to control the gill goblet cells and the cuticle-secreting cells, neither hy-pophysectomy nor treatment with prolactin or Cortisol significantly affected the skin goblet cells. The mucus coat appears incapable of reducing integumental permeability through steric interference of diffusion or through Donnan exclusion of ions from the mucus coat. Further, it is argued that enhancement of unstirred layers by mucus could not significantly affect hydromineral balance. Instead, alterations of the mucus coat with environmental salinity may be associated with the lubricating properties of mucus. Leptocottus mucus is a viscous non-newtonian fluid when concentrated but is an efficient lubricant when dilute. Seawater-adapted Leptocottus produce a more efficient lubricating mucus than do 5% seawater-acclimated fish; this effect appears to involve the cuticle-secreting cells. In an associated study I showed that the skin of the goby Gillichthys mirabilis participates actively in osmoregulation through extra-renal ion excretion. Thus the effects of prolactin and Cortisol may be primarily to control active transport in the skin.

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