Neuro-molecular characterization of fish cleaning interactions

S Ramírez-Calero, J R Paula, E Otjacques, R Rosa, T Ravasi, C Schunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Coral reef fish exhibit a large variety of behaviours crucial for fitness and survival. The cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus displays cognitive abilities during interspecific interactions by providing services of ectoparasite cleaning, thus serving as a good example to understand the processes of complex social behaviour. However, little is known about the molecular underpinnings of cooperative behaviour between L. dimidiatus and a potential client fish (Acanthurus leucosternon). Therefore, we investigated the molecular mechanisms in three regions of the brain (Fore-, Mid-, and Hindbrain) during the interaction of these fishes. Here we show, using transcriptomics, that most of the transcriptional response in both species was regulated in the Hindbrain and Forebrain regions and that the interacting behaviour responses of L. dimidiatus involved immediate early gene alteration, dopaminergic and glutamatergic pathways, the expression of neurohormones (such as isotocin) and steroids (e.g. progesterone and estrogen). In contrast, in the client, fewer molecular alterations were found, mostly involving pituitary hormone responses. The particular pathways found suggested synaptic plasticity, learning and memory processes in the cleaner wrasse, while the client indicated stress relief.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 19 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-05-31
Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge Lígia Cascalheira and Dr Tiago Repolho for their help with the maintenance of aquatic systems throughout the experiment. We would like to thank Celia Schunter’s Lab members at HKU Sneha Suresh and Jingliang Kang, for their help building the bioinformatic pipeline and Natalia Petit-Marty, Arthur Yan Chi Chung and Jade Sourisse for engaging in stimulating discussions and comments to this work. This work was supported by the Hong Kong Research Grant Committee Early Career Scheme fund 27107919 (CS) and CS’s HKU start-up fund (S.R. postgraduate studentship), the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (TR & CS). Portuguese national funds funded this study through FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, I.P., within the project PTDC/MAR-EST/5880/2014 and PTDC/BIA-BMA/0080/2021 to JRP and the strategic project UID/MAR/04292/2020.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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