Smell of Infection: a novel, non-invasive method for detection of fish excretory- secretory proteins

Rebecca Pawluk, Rebekah Stuart, Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, Jo Cable, Russ Morphew, Peter Brophy, Sofia Consuegra

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4 Citations (SciVal)
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Chemical signals are produced by aquatic organisms following predatory attacks or perturbations such as parasitic infection. Ectoparasites feeding on fish hosts are likely to cause release of similar alarm cues into the environment due to the stress, wounding, and immune response stimulated upon infection. Alarm cues are often released in the form of proteins, antimicrobial peptides, and immunoglobulins that provide important insights into bodily function and infection status. Here we outline a noninvasive method to identify potential chemical cues associated with infection in fish by extracting, purifying, and characterizing proteins from water samples from cultured fish. Gel free proteomic methods were deemed the most suitable for protein detection in saline water samples. It was confirmed that teleost proteins can be characterized from water and that variation in protein profiles could be detected between infected and uninfected individuals and fish and parasite only water samples. Our novel assay provides a noninvasive method for assessing the health condition of both wild and farmed aquatic organisms. Similar to environmental DNA monitoring methods, these proteomic techniques could provide an important tool in applied ecology and aquatic biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1379
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Proteome Research
Issue number3
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2019


  • alarm cues
  • gel free MS
  • Kryptolebias marmoratus
  • odour
  • parasitic infection
  • Alarm cues
  • Gel free MS
  • Parasitic infection
  • Odor
  • Fish Diseases/metabolism
  • Fishes/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Water/metabolism
  • Fish Proteins/isolation & purification
  • Pheromones/chemistry
  • Proteomics/methods


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