Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Steve A. Murawski, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cathy J. Walsh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dana L. Wetzel, Ph.D.


Cytokine, deepwater horizon, immunotoxicity, oil spill, snapper, tilefish


Cytokines are pleiotropic and redundant signaling molecules that govern the inflammatory response and immunity, a critical ecological parameter for organism success and population growth. Produced at the site of injury or pathogen intrusion by a variety of cell types, cytokines mediate cell-signaling in either an autocrine or paracrine manner. The type and magnitude of the cytokine milieu produced subsequently dictates the strength and form of immune response. As the most diverse vertebrate group, with a high sensitivity to contaminants, fish represent an important foci for the evaluation of immune system evolution, function, and alteration upon toxicant exposure. While many cytokines have been identified in teleosts, primary study has been limited to model species (e.g. zebrafish and fugu). However, evidence exists for several variations of cytokine genes within taxa, underscoring the need for species-specific evaluation.

In this study, two pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and TNFα ), one chemokine (IL-8), and one anti-inflammatory cytokine (IL-10) were cloned, sequenced, and characterized for the first time in two commercially relevant Perciformes in the Gulf of Mexico, golden tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus). The complete amino acid sequence was obtained and confirmed for IL-β and IL-8 from golden tilefish and for IL-8, IL-10, and TNFα from red snapper, with partial sequences obtained for the remaining proteins. The results indicate high homology among Perciformes for all cytokines studied, but divergence with other teleost orders, and low conservation when compared to birds, amphibians, and mammals.

The sequences will be used to create a multi-plexed antibody-based assay for the routine detection of cytokines in teleost serum. This would allow the biochemical response to fish health challenges, such as oil spills and other contamination events, to be monitored at the protein level, building upon the current regime of genetic biomarkers. Thus, this work will aid in the understanding of how oil spills and other contamination events may alter the immune response in fishes.