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Thermal stress induces a positive phenotypic and molecular feedback loop in zebrafish embryos

Feugere, Lauric; Wollenberg Valero, Katharina C.; Scott, Victoria; Rodriguez-Barucg, Quentin; Beltran-Alvarez, Pedro


Lauric Feugere

Katharina C. Wollenberg Valero

Victoria Scott

Quentin Rodriguez-Barucg

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Dr Pedro Beltran-Alvarez
Senior Lecturer in Health and Climate Change and Programme co-Director of the MSc Health and Climate Change


Aquatic organisms must cope with both rising and rapidly changing temperatures. These thermal changes can affect numerous traits, from molecular to ecological scales. Biotic stressors are already known to induce the release of chemical cues which trigger behavioural responses in other individuals. In this study, we infer whether fluctuating temperature, as an abiotic stressor, may similarly induce stress-like responses in individuals not directly exposed to the stressor. To test this hypothesis, zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos were exposed for 24 h to fluctuating thermal stress, to medium in which another embryo was thermally stressed before (“stress medium”), and to a combination of these. Growth, behaviour, expression of molecular markers, and of whole-embryo cortisol were used to characterise the thermal stress response and its propagation between embryos. Both fluctuating high temperature and stress medium significantly accelerated development, by shifting stressed embryos from segmentation to pharyngula stages, and altered embryonic activity. Importantly, we found that the expression of sulfide:quinone oxidoreductase (SQOR), the antioxidant gene SOD1, and of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) were significantly altered by stress medium. This study illustrates the existence of positive thermal stress feedback loops in zebrafish embryos where heat stress can induce stress-like responses in conspecifics, but which might operate via different molecular pathways. If similar effects also occur under less severe heat stress regimes, this mechanism may be relevant in natural settings as well.


Feugere, L., Wollenberg Valero, K. C., Scott, V., Rodriguez-Barucg, Q., & Beltran-Alvarez, P. (2021). Thermal stress induces a positive phenotypic and molecular feedback loop in zebrafish embryos. Journal of Thermal Biology, 102, Article 103114.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 20, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 23, 2021
Publication Date Dec 1, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 21, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 24, 2022
Journal Journal of Thermal Biology
Print ISSN 0306-4565
Electronic ISSN 1879-0992
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 102
Article Number 103114
Keywords Behaviour; Chemical communication; Heat stress; Gene expression; Feedback loop; Zebrafish embryos
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