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Exploring the larval transcriptome of the common sole (Solea solea L.)

Serena Ferraresso1*, Alessio Bonaldo2, Luca Parma2, Stefano Cinotti3, Paola Massi4, Luca Bargelloni1 and Pier Paolo Gatta2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padova, Viale dell’Università 16, Legnaro, PD 35020, Italy

2 Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, via Tolara di Sopra 50, Ozzano Emilia, BO, 40064, Italy

3 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell’Emilia, via Bianchi 9, Brescia, 24125, Italy

4 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell’Emilia, Sezione di Forlì, Via Marchini 1, Forlì, 47122, Italy

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:315  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-315

Published: 10 May 2013



The common sole (Solea solea) is a promising candidate for European aquaculture; however, the limited knowledge of the physiological mechanisms underlying larval development in this species has hampered the establishment of successful flatfish aquaculture. Although the fact that genomic tools and resources are available for some flatfish species, common sole genomics remains a mostly unexplored field. Here, we report, for the first time, the sequencing and characterisation of the transcriptome of S. solea and its application for the study of molecular mechanisms underlying physiological and morphological changes during larval-to-juvenile transition.


The S. solea transcriptome was generated from whole larvae and adult tissues using the Roche 454 platform. The assembly process produced a set of 22,223 Isotigs with an average size of 726 nt, 29 contigs and a total of 203,692 singletons. Of the assembled sequences, 75.2% were annotated with at least one known transcript/protein; these transcripts were then used to develop a custom oligo-DNA microarray. A total of 14,674 oligonucleotide probes (60 nt), representing 12,836 transcripts, were in situ synthesised onto the array using Agilent non-contact ink-jet technology. The microarray platform was used to investigate the gene expression profiles of sole larvae from hatching to the juvenile form. Genes involved in the ontogenesis of the visual system are up-regulated during the early stages of larval development, while muscle development and anaerobic energy pathways increase in expression over time. The gene expression profiles of key transcripts of the thyroid hormones (TH) cascade and the temporal regulation of the GH/IGF1 (growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor I) system suggest a pivotal role of these pathways in fish growth and initiation of metamorphosis. Pre-metamorphic larvae display a distinctive transcriptomic landscape compared to previous and later stages. Our findings highlighted the up-regulation of gene pathways involved in the development of the gastrointestinal system as well as biological processes related to folic acid and retinol metabolism. Additional evidence led to the formation of the hypothesis that molecular mechanisms of cell motility and ECM adhesion may play a role in tissue rearrangement during common sole metamorphosis.


Next-generation sequencing provided a good representation of the sole transcriptome, and the combination of different approaches led to the annotation of a high number of transcripts. The construction of a microarray platform for the characterisation of the larval sole transcriptome permitted the definition of the main processes involved in organogenesis and larval growth.

Solea solea; Flatfish; Larval development; Metamorphosis; Transcriptome; Gene expression