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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Study of the invasion and intracellular traffic of photobacterium damselae subs. piscicida with non-immune cells of the gilthead (sparus aurata)

Lead Researcher:
Félix Acosta Arbelo

Research Centre:
Instituto Universitario de Sanidad Animal y Seguridad Alimentaria. Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.


Félix Acosta ArbeloPhotobacterium damselae subsp. piscicida (Phdp) is a causal agent of one of the most important diseases in marine fish farming, pasteurellosis. This pathogen showed its economic importance in Japan, where it caused major losses in the fish farming industry. Although Europe was thought to be free of this disease until years ago, epidemics of the disease started to be detected in several European countries at the start of the 1990s. Pasteurellosis has now become a major problem in fish farming all over the world. In the Canary Islands, it is one of the most common diseases with the greatest economic effect on fish farming. The gilthead bream (Sparus aurata), which is of great economic value, is one of the species of fish most affected by this pathogen. The bacteria is an intracellular pathogen that is able to reside within the phagocyte cells of the gilthead bream. Recent literature has revealed that Phdp is also able to infect the non-phagocyte cells (NPC) of different species of fish. The entry of this pathogen into NPC may be used by this bacteria to escape the immune system or to facilitate its spread through the tissues of fish. This project aims to study in detail the processes of adherence, internalisation, and the intracellular traffic of Phdp in non-phagocyte cells of the gilthead bream, its natural host and the most important in biological and economic terms. It has the following objectives:

  • To develop tools for the study of bacteria-cell interactions in the Phdp-gilthead bream model.
  • To monitor the intercellular behaviour of Phdp in SAF‑1 cells.
  • To study the changes in the genetic expression of cytokines inserted into SAF‑1 cells after infections by Phdp.

Researcher's web address:



Félix Acosta Arbelo

A graduate of Veterinary Science (1997) from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), he submitted his Degree Dissertation in 1999 and his Doctoral Thesis in 2002. From the beginning he has worked in the line of research into icthyopathology, with a range of national and international publications; after his Doctoral Thesis, his work has centred on the field of immunology, mainly the study of non-specific immune response, with periods of training in leading centres (FRS Marine Laboratory, Scotland), as well as publishing in the most prestigious journals in this field. He is currently Tenured Professor in the Area of Animal Health, specialising in Infectious Diseases and Icthyopathology in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the ULPGC, where he researches at the Animal Health and Food Safety University Institute. He has taken part in 15 regional, national or international projects financed by public or private funds, for which he was (or is) the principal investigator in 3 of them, and he is also the co-author of 29 papers in international scientific journals.

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