Why the goby can conquer the waters of the world

February 11, 2020

The round goby, one of the most common invasive freshwater fish in the world, boasts a particularly robust immune system, which could be one of the reasons for its excellent adaptability. This is the result of genome research by an international team of biologists, coordinated at the University of Basel and published in the journal BMC Biology.

With its stocky, spotted body, big eyes and large mouth, the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) may not be the most attractive of aquatic creatures, but it is one of the most successful invasive species of fish. Within a few years, it has spread rapidly around the world. Usually introduced via the ballast water from ships, the fish has now become the dominant species in terms of numbers in various fresh and salt waters. Its marked ability to adapt to new environments is apparently related to its immune system, as the researchers report based on their genome analysis.

Up to 30 times more inflammation genes

For this analysis, the researchers read and assembled particularly long genome fragments from a round goby originating in Basel. Because of their length, these fragments produced an exceptionally complete genome, which was used to analyze gene families that were thought to relate to the fish's ability to deal with new environments. Here, the researchers described expansions in specific enzymes known as cytochrome P450.

Furthermore, the zoologists found that all the genes deployed in inflammatory immune responses are present in the fish - and, in some cases, up to 30 times more than in comparable species. This may help the round goby to deal with pathogens, thus favoring its successful colonization of waters around the world. But there is still one aspect that has the specialists puzzled: although round gobies are also found in highly polluted water - in ports, for example - they do not differ from other species in terms of detoxification.

Colder water than in their natural habitat

Furthermore, the researchers came across the genetic basis that allows the round goby not only to produce but also to accumulate osmolytes - substances that affect the osmotic state. These help the fish to deal not only with fluctuations in salinity but also with desiccation and cold. This could also explain why round gobies are also found in the Baltic Sea - that is, in water temperatures far below those of their original habitat.
-end-
The lead author of this international study, which involved about 20 researchers from Europe and North America, is Dr. Irene Adrian-Kalchhauser from the Man-Society-Environment (MSE) program at the University of Basel. In addition to Switzerland, the study also involved scientists from Sweden, Germany, the Czechia, Norway, Austria and Canada.

Further information

Dr. Irene Adrian-Kalchhauser, University of Basel, Program Man-Society-Environment, phone +41 31 631 24 41, email: irene.adrian-kalchhauser@vetsuisse.unibe.ch

University of Basel

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.