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Environmental Stress Effect on mRNA Expression Levels of Seven Genes Related to Oxidative Stress, Growth in Atlantic Salmon

22 April 2013

Ten generations of domestication selection has caused farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. to deviate from wild salmon in a range of traits. In this study, the effects of environmental stress on mRNA expression levels of seven genes related to oxidative stress and growth in Atlantic salmon of farmed, hybrid and wild origin are analysed.

Each year hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon escape into the wild. Thus, interbreeding between farmed escapees and wild conspecifics represents a significant threat to the genetic integrity of wild salmon populations.

In a previous study Monica F Solberg et al, Institute of Marine Research, Norway, demonstrated how domestication has inadvertently selected for reduced responsiveness to stress in farmed salmon. To complement that study, the researchers have evaluated the expression of seven stress-related genes in head kidney of salmon of farmed, hybrid and wild origin exposed to environmentally induced stress.


In general, the crowding stressor used to induce environmental stress did not have a strong impact on mRNA expression levels of the seven genes, except for insulin-like growth factor- 1 (IGF-1) that was downregulated in the stress treatment relative to the control treatment.

mRNA expression levels of glutathione reductase (GR), Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD), Mn superoxide dismutase (Mn SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GP) and IGF-1 were affected by genetic origin, thus expressed significantly different between the salmon of farmed, hybrid or wild origin.

A positive relationship was detected between body size of wild salmon and mRNA expression level of the IGF-1 gene, in both environments. No such relationship was observed for the hybrid or farmed salmon.


Farmed salmon in this study displayed significantly elevated mRNA levels of the IGF-1 gene relative to the wild salmon, in both treatments, while hybrids displayed a non additive pattern of inheritance.

As IGF-1 mRNA levels are positively correlated to growth rate, the observed positive relationship between body size and IGF-1 mRNA levels detected in the wild but neither in the farmed nor the hybrid salmon, could indicate that growth selection has increased IGF-1 levels in farmed salmon to the extent that they may not be limiting growth rate.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

April 2013

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