The freshwater crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus is a tropical species of great interest for aquaculture. Vitellogenin (Vg), a lipoprotein precursor of the vitellum accumulated in spawned eggs, can be synthesized in the ovary and/or hepatopancreas of most crustaceans, being the hemolymph the way for transporting Vg throughout the reproductive cycle. Concentration of Vg in hemolymph, ovary and hepatopancreas of Cherax quadricarinatus adult females was measured by means of ELISA, specifically developed after purifying the native Vg. Measurements were made at four periods of the reproductive cycle: pre-reproductive, mid-reproductive, late reproductive and post-reproductive. Besides, both hepatosomatic (HSI) and gonadosomatic (GSI) indexes were determined in each period. Significant variations in Vg levels were detected in both hemolymph and hepatopancreas, being the highest values observed during the mid-reproductive period. Besides, such variations were positively correlated to the HSI. A positive correlation between Vg levels in hepatopancreas and ovary was also seen. These results support previous evidences about the central role of the hepatopancreas as a site of Vg synthesis in the studied species, together with the relevancy of hemolymph for transporting Vg from the hepatopancreas to the ovary. For aquaculture purposes, Vg monitoring in hemolymph could be used as a non-injurious method, to check the reproductive activity of C. quadricarinatus females.
Keywords: crustaceans, reproduction, energy allocation, vitellogenin, reproductive cycle