Physiological status of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) in the Illinois River: an assessment of fish at the leading edge of the invasion front.
Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) are invasive to North America, and their range has expanded within the Mississippi River Basin, seemingly unchecked, since their introduction in the late 1970s, with the exception of the upper reaches of the Illinois River. With the imminent threat of their movement into the Great Lakes, the goal of the present study was to assess whether differences in the physiological status between silver carp at the leading edge of their invasion front and core population sites could explain their lack of expansion upstream toward Lake Michigan over the past decade. A transcriptomic approach using RNA sequencing and analysis of plasma variables were used to quantify differences among fish at the leading edge and two downstream core population sites. Leading-edge fish exhibited upregulation of genes associated with xenobiotic defense (e.g., ATP-binding cassette C1 [abcc1], abcc2, abcc6), decreased cell integrity (i.e., macroautophagy and apoptosis; autophagy-related protein 9A [atg9a], caspase 3b [casp3b]), and cholesterol metabolism (e.g., abca1, apolipoprotein A1 [apoa1], sterol O-acyltransferase [soat1]) and downregulation of genes associated with DNA repair (e.g., tumor suppressor p53-binding protein 1 [tp53 bp1]) compared to core population sites. Transcriptomic profiles of leading-edge fish were consistent with fish inhabiting a polluted environment and suggest that poorer water quality conditions upstream of the leading edge may represent a non-permanent barrier to silver carp range expansion. The present study provides potential molecular targets for monitoring the physiological status of silver carp over time and in response to future improvements in water quality upstream of their leading edge.