Exposure of rainbow trout to a reduced ambient calcium level (from 490 to 25 μmol Ca2+/l) caused hypocalcaemia and induced a rapid increase (within 1 h) in systemic cortisol levels. Under conditions of low environmental calcium concentrations, cortisol levels remained increased for at least 8 days. After this time the in-vitro Ca2+-transport capacity of branchial basolateral membrane vesicles was increased due to stimulation of Ca2+-ATPase activity, presumably as a result of chloride cell proliferation. Pituitary prolactin cells were unaffected by low ambient calcium levels. Fish kept in water containing 490 μmol Ca2+/l and treated with cortisol for 7 days displayed an increase in whole body calcium uptake and an enhancement of the branchial calcium transport capacity; concomitantly, hypercalcaemia was observed. We conclude that, in the rainbow trout, cortisol exerts hypercalcaemic effects by stimulating Ca2+ uptake from the water and that this effect forms an intrinsic part of the established mineralocorticoid action of cortisol in fish.
Journal of Endocrinology (1989) 120, 75–82