The Laboratory of Aquaculture & Artemia Reference Center (ARC) has been involved in larviculture research since the late 1970's. Since the mid 1980's research activities extended to fish & shellfish larviculture-related fields a.o. lipid and vitamin requirements, microbial management in larviculture systems, microorganism (bacteria, yeast, micro-algae)-fish larvae interactions, egg and larvae quality, use of enriched Brachionus and Artemia, effects of immunostimulants and other compounds on disease and stress resistance.
Gnotobiotic systems (set ups without bacteria or with known bacterial communities) are especially interesting, because biases caused by the unknown/variable microbiota in cultures of Artemia are eliminated. There are standard challenge tests with Vibrio campbellii (and quorum-sensing mutants), V. harveyi and V. parahaemolyticus. The set-up can be used to study host-microbial interactions, quorum sensing regulated mechanisms, the effect of microorganisms (probiotic bacteria, yeasts, algae) or feed components (glucan, heat shock proteins, poly-β-hydroxybutyrate) on resistance to challenge, gastro-intestinal morphology and gene expression especially immunology related genes. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) protocols for 10 immune related genes are available.
The Lab of Aquaculture & Artemia Reference Center is the only aquaculture lab in Europe that has a platform of 10 immune related genes of Artemia available for research.
Services currently offered by the infrastructure
The set-up is currently used to study quorum sensing regulation of virulence of Vibrio spp., the effect of microorganisms on the development of the intestinal tract, the application of anti-infective feed components (heat shock proteins, poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) and PHB-containing bacteria). The system was used in collaborative studies with groups from Belgium (T. Coenye, Ghent University), USA (T. Wood, Texas A&M University), Canada (E. Meighen, McGill University and T. MacRae, Dalhousie University) and India (Indrani Karunasagar, UNESCO MIRCEN for Marine Biotechnology).
This set-up has been used in seven PhD studies and is currently used in 10 aquaculture related PhD studies and by 2 post-doc research fellows and has led to 40 A1-publications.The set-up can be used to study host-microbial interactions, quorum sensing-regulated mechanisms, testing probiotic bacteria, testing the effect of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, algae) or feed components (glucan, heat shock proteins, poly-β-hydroxybutyrate) on resistance to challenge, gastro-intestinal morphology and development of larvae (gastro-intestinal, cranial,...) deformities, gene transcription, immunological essays. It can also be used to verify phenotypic differences in larvae of seabass lines towards a Vibrio anguillarum challenge. The set-up can be used to run the experiments and gather samples. Analysis of these samples might need the input of visitor's laboratories, depending on the specific interest.
Modality of access
On average each user or user group is expected to stay 60 days at the infrastructure. Access is easy as Artemia is available year-round and can be arranged for on a short-term basis. Typically, under local guidance a visitor can acquire the necessary skills to obtain bacteria-free Artemia, gather samples and learn to use the Artemia genome data base in one month and can perform his/her experiments in the following month. The goal and the specific experiment will be discussed with the UGent scientist during the application and during the stay of the user. Analyses of the samples need to happen at the Lab of Aquaculture & Artemia Reference Center.
The user will discuss together with a post-doc level researcher the experiment protocol, treatments and sampling points. The user learns the methods to obtain axenic Artemia and verify axenity from an experienced skilled technician runs the experiment together with a technician under the supervision of the researcher. qPCR is provided of 10 different immune markers to analyze the samples. A report is made together with the researcher for dissemination of the results.
Unit of Access
The access will comprise the use of the gnotobiotic Artemia system. A unit of access is defined as one-month x 60 vials. One typical access consists of 2 units of access. A typical experiment will have a control + 2 Treatments with or without challenge. This results in 6 treatments at 10 replicates each = 60 vials). However, the user may want to have more treatments in 1 experiment. The set up can be adjusted according to the design of the experiment.