This study set out to investigate whether differential expression of genes for acute phase proteins in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) could be induced by confinement stress, a non-invasive method of activating the neuroendocrine stress response. In addition, a second objective was to assess the variation in gene expression between individual fish within the population of stressed fish in an attempt to identify APP genes having uniform and consistent changes in expression during stress. The liver was chosen for this investigation as it is the primary site of acute phase protein synthesis. Relative expression of the eight genes including transferrin, fibrinogen-like protein 2 (flp2), alpha-1-anti-proteinase-like protein (alpha 1-antiprot), leukocyte cell-derived chemotaxin 2 (LECT2), pentraxin, serum amyloid A (SAA), haptoglobin (Hp), and differentially regulated trout protein 1 (DRTP1) was analysed by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) over 5 experimental time points spanning the course of a week. The results showed that the expression of three genes, SAA, haptoglobin and DRTP1, were most altered as a result of exposure to confinement stress. A correlation was identified between the expression of haptoglobin and DRTP1. Gene expression analyses in individual fish found that the transcript levels of haptoglobin and DRTP1 genes varied much less between individuals than was the case for SAA. The increase of haptoglobin and DRTP1 gene expression and its uniformity in response to stress make these genes potential biomarkers for stress in trout. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.