Acidized water environment can impact many physiological processes of aquatic animals. The response of the head kidney to acidification, especially the immune response, is of great significance to health. This study analyzed the histological and transcriptional changes under different acidification levels (C group, pH 8.1; P group, pH 7.4; E group, pH 3.5) in the short term (12 h, 36 h and 60 h) in the head kidney of juvenile L. calcarifer. The results showed that the acidification of the water environment caused tissue damage to the head kidney of L. calcarifer, and the damage appeared earlier and was stronger in the extreme pH group. The transcriptional response of L. calcarifer head kidney increased with the increase of acidification level. The two treatments transcriptional responses showed different trends in terms of time. After KEGG function enrichment, with the increase of stimulation time, the proportion of down-regulated pathways was increasing, and the types of pathway enrichment at different acidification levels were quite different at the initial stage. At 12 h, the first category in the P group with the most significant number of pathways was ‘Metabolism’, and the first category in the E group with the largest number of pathways was ‘Human Diseases’. At 60 h, the enrichment pathways of the two groups were highly overlapping in immune-related pathways, which contained 26 common DEGs. They had a dominant expression pattern. In the P group, the expression level decreased with time. In the E group, the down-regulation degree of expression level at 12 h reached the level of the P group at 60 h, and the expression level remained low until 60 h. Through the correlation network, interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7), Tripartite motif containing-21 (TRIM21), Signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) and Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) were found to have the most correlation with other genes. In this study, juvenile L. calcarifer showed different coping strategies to different levels of acute acidification stress, but all of them resulted in the extensive weakening of head kidney immune function.
- Estuarine fish