The health and condition responses of Delta Smelt to fasting: A time series experiment

Bruce G. Hammock, Wilson F. Ramírez-Duarte, Pedro Alejandro Triana Garcia, Andrew A. Schultz, Leonie I. Avendano, Tien Chieh Hung, James R. White, Yih Tyng Bong, Swee J. Teh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


There is an extensive literature establishing, validating, and quantifying a wide range of responses of fishes to fasting. Our study complements this work by comparing fed and unfed treatments of hatchery-raised Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus)—an imperiled fish that is endemic to the San Francisco Estuary and its tributaries in California, USA—across a diverse suite of endpoints over a two-month time series. The experiment was conducted at 15.9◦C, and individuals were sampled at 12 time points as starvation became increasingly severe. We found that hepatosomatic index and condition factor were relatively sensitive to starvation, becoming significantly depressed at Day 4 and 7, respectively. Histological analysis of liver showed elevated cytoplasmic inclusion bodies at Day 7, followed by increased glycogen depletion, single cell necrosis, and hydropic vacuolar degeneration at Day 14, 21, and 28, respectively. Of four antioxidants measured, glutathione decreased at Day 4, superoxide dismutase increased at Day 14, catalase increased at Day 56, and glutathione peroxidase was not affected by starvation. The net result was a ~2-fold increase in lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde) in fasted fish that was highly inconsistent through time. RNA to DNA ratio and triglycerides in muscle were relatively insensitive to starvation, only consistently decreasing with fasting after mortality began increasing in the ‘No Feeding’ treatment, at Day 21. Together, these results suggest that Delta Smelt mobilize hepatic energy stores far more rapidly than lipids in muscle when subjected to fasting, leading to rapid atrophy of liver and the development of cytoplasmic inclusion bodies—possibly autophagosomes—in hepatocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0239358
JournalPloS one
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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