In all teleost fishes vitellogenesis is triggered and maintained by oestradiol-17beta (E2) and is accompanied by an increase of blood plasma calcium and phosphate. The action of this hormone on calcium metabolism was investigated by treating fast-growing immature juvenile sea bream (Sparus aurata) with coconut butter implants alone (control) or implants containing 10 microg/g E2. Treatment with E2 induced the production of circulating vitellogenin, a 2.5-fold increase in plasma ionic Ca2+ and a 10-fold increase in plasma total calcium, largely bound to protein. In contrast to freshwater species, which obtain most of their calcium from the environment directly through the gills, the intestinal component of calcium uptake of the salt water-living sea bream represented up to 60-70% of the total uptake. The whole body calcium uptake, expressed as the sum of calcium obtained via intestinal and extra-intestinal (likely branchial) routes increased significantly in response to E2. Combined influx and unchanged efflux rates resulted in a significant 31% increase in net calcium uptake. There was no evidence for an effect of E2 on the calcium and phosphate content of the scales or the tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity (an index for bone/scale osteoclast activity). While most freshwater fish appear to rely on internal stores of calcium, i.e. bone and/or scales to increase calcium availability, the marine sea bream accommodates calcium-transporting mechanisms to obtain calcium from the environment and preserve internal stores. These observations suggest that a fundamental difference may exist in the E2-dependent calcium regulation between freshwater and marine teleosts.
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