Fish mucus metabolome reveals fish life-history traits
Fish mucus has important biological and ecological roles such as defense against fish pathogens and chemical mediation among several species. A non-targeted liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry metabolomic approach was developed to study gill mucus of eight butterflyfish species in Moorea (French Polynesia), and the influence of several fish traits (geographic site and reef habitat, species taxonomy, phylogeny, diet and parasitism levels) on the metabolic variability was investigated. A biphasic extraction yielding two fractions (polar and apolar) was used. Fish diet (obligate corallivorous, facultative corallivorous or omnivorous) arose as the main driver of the metabolic differences in the gill mucus in both fractions, accounting for 23% of the observed metabolic variability in the apolar fraction and 13% in the polar fraction. A partial least squares discriminant analysis allowed us to identify the metabolites (variable important in projection, VIP) driving the differences between fish with different diets (obligate corallivores, facultative corallivores and omnivorous). Using accurate mass data and fragmentation data, we identified some of these VIP as glycerophosphocholines, ceramides and fatty acids. Level of monogenean gill parasites was the second most important factor shaping the gill mucus metabolome, and it explained 10% of the metabolic variability in the polar fraction and 5% in the apolar fraction. A multiple regression tree revealed that the metabolic variability due to parasitism in the polar fraction was mainly due to differences between non-parasitized and parasitized fish. Phylogeny and butterflyfish species were factors contributing significantly to the metabolic variability of the apolar fraction (10 and 3%, respectively) but had a less pronounced effect in the polar fraction. Finally, geographic site and reef habitat of butterflyfish species did not influence the gill mucus metabolome of butterflyfishes.