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Open Access Research article

Hepatic transcriptome analysis of inter-family variability in flesh n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid content in Atlantic salmon

Sofia Morais1*, John B Taggart1, Derrick R Guy2, J Gordon Bell1 and Douglas R Tocher1

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK

2 Landcatch Natural Selection Ltd, Cooperage Way, Alloa, FK10 3LP, Scotland, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:410  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-410

Published: 20 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Genetic selection of Atlantic salmon families better adapted to alternative feed formulations containing high levels of vegetable ingredients has been suggested to ensure sustainable growth of aquaculture. The present study aimed to identify molecular pathways that could underlie phenotypic differences in flesh n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) levels when fish are fed vegetable oil diets. Liver transcriptome was analyzed and compared in four families presenting higher or lower n-3 LC-PUFA contents at two contrasting flesh total lipid levels.

Results

The main effect of n-3 LC-PUFA contents was in the expression of immune response genes (38% of all significantly affected genes), broadly implicated in the modulation of inflammatory processes and innate immune response. Although genetic evaluations of traits used in the breeding program revealed that the chosen families were not balanced for viral disease resistance, this did not fully explain the preponderance of immune response genes in the transcriptomic analysis. Employing stringent statistical analysis no lipid metabolism genes were detected as being significantly altered in liver when comparing families with high and low n-3 LC-PUFA flesh contents. However, relaxing the statistical analysis enabled identification of potentially relevant effects, further studied by RT-qPCR, in cholesterol biosynthesis, lipoprotein metabolism and lipid transport, as well as eicosanoid metabolism particularly affecting the lipoxygenase pathway. Total lipid level in flesh also showed an important effect on immune response and 8% of significantly affected genes related to lipid metabolism, including a fatty acyl elongase (elovl2), an acyl carrier protein and stearoyl-CoA desaturase.

Conclusions

Inter-family differences in n-3 LC-PUFA content could not be related to effects on lipid metabolism, including transcriptional modulation of the LC-PUFA biosynthesis pathway. An association was found between flesh adiposity and n-3 LC-PUFA in regulation of cholesterol biosynthesis, which was most likely explained by variation in tissue n-3 LC-PUFA levels regulating transcription of cholesterol metabolism genes through srebp2. A preponderance of immune response genes significantly affected by n-3 LC-PUFA contents could be potentially associated with disease resistance, possibly involving anti-inflammatory actions of tissue n-3 LC-PUFA through eicosanoid metabolism. This association may have been fortuitous, but it is important to clarify if this trait is included in future salmon breeding programmes.