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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Dietary soyasaponin supplementation to pea protein concentrate reveals nutrigenomic interactions underlying enteropathy in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

Trond M Kortner1*, Stanko Skugor23, Michael H Penn1, Liv Torunn Mydland3, Brankica Djordjevic3, Marie Hillestad4, Aleksei Krasnov2 and Åshild Krogdahl1

Author Affiliations

1 Aquaculture Protein Centre (a CoE), Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway

2 Nofima Marin, Ås, 1432, Norway

3 Aquaculture Protein Centre (a CoE), Department of Animal & Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, N-1432, Norway

4 Biomar AS, Nordre Gate 11, Trondheim, 7011, Norway

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BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:101  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-101

Published: 2 July 2012



Use of plant ingredients in aquaculture feeds is impeded by high contents of antinutritional factors such as saponins, which may cause various pharmacological and biological effects. In this study, transcriptome changes were analyzed using a 21 k oligonucleotide microarray and qPCR in the distal intestine of Atlantic salmon fed diets based on five plant protein sources combined with soybean saponins.


Diets with corn gluten, sunflower, rapeseed or horsebean produced minor effects while the combination of saponins with pea protein concentrate caused enteritis and major transcriptome changes. Acute inflammation was characterised by up-regulation of cytokines, NFkB and TNFalpha related genes and regulators of T-cell function, while the IFN-axis was suppressed. Induction of lectins, complement, metalloproteinases and the respiratory burst complex parallelled a down-regulation of genes for free radical scavengers and iron binding proteins. Marked down-regulation of xenobiotic metabolism was also observed, possibly increasing vulnerability of the intestinal tissue. A hallmark of metabolic changes was dramatic down-regulation of lipid, bile and steroid metabolism. Impairment of digestion was further suggested by expression changes of nutrient transporters and regulators of water balance (e.g. aquaporin, guanylin). On the other hand, microarray profiling revealed activation of multiple mucosal defence processes. Annexin-1, with important anti-inflammatory and gastroprotective properties, was markedly up-regulated. Furthermore, augmented synthesis of polyamines needed for cellular proliferation (up-regulation of arginase and ornithine decarboxylase) and increased mucus production (down-regulation of glycan turnover and goblet cell hyperplasia) could participate in mucosal healing and restoration of normal tissue function.


The current study promoted understanding of salmon intestinal pathology and establishment of a model for feed induced enteritis. Multiple gene expression profiling further characterised the inflammation and described the intestinal pathology at the molecular level.

Ethical approval

The present experiment was approved by the Norwegian Animal Research Authority and conducted according to prevailing animal welfare regulations: FOR-1996-01-15-23 (Norway), European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes (Strasbourg, 18.III.1986) and COUNCIL DIRECTIVE of 24 November 1986 on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes (86/609/EEC).

Plant protein sources; Fish feed; Microarray; Inflammation; Digestion; Saponin