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Title: A comparative study of gene expression in wild and domesticated Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.)
Author: Bicskei, Beatrix
ISNI:       0000 0004 5917 2288
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2015
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Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) has been domesticated since the 1960s and has undergone over 10 generations of artificial selection for economically important traits. As a result, domesticated salmon have diverged with respect to a number of phenotypic, genotypic and behavioural traits from their wild counterparts. Since the selection pressures that are present in the wild differ greatly from the ones that shape salmon under culture conditions, domesticated salmon stocks are considered to be maladapted to natural conditions. Despite strict regulations, insoluble issues pertaining to large-scale cage rearing of farmed fish mean that there is a continuous presence of farm escapees in the wild. Gene flow from escapees has been perceived as a factor in the decline of wild populations, suggested to occur through disruption of local adaptation. This study aims to improve understanding of the genetic differences between wild and domesticated stocks by comparing the transcriptomes of Figgjo (wild) and Mowi (domesticated) strains. A series of common garden experiments have been performed, utilizing pure and reciprocal hybrid crosses of the wild and domesticated stocks, reared under two different conditions and sampled at four time points and three distinct life stages (embryo, sac-fry and feeding fry). Microarray interrogations were performed employing a 44K custom microarray design to identify genes and gene pathways that are differentially expressed between the stocks. KEGG-based functional analyses have been implemented using different gene set enrichment packages, and dominance and additive parameters were calculated from normalized expression values to predict the mode of heritability of the genes identified as differentially expressed between stocks. Most biological functions represented in wild and domesticated crosses were consistent across life stages and environments. The transcriptomic differences detected between stocks in multiple developmental stages likely reflected adaptations to selection pressures differing between natural and aquaculture environments. Down-regulated environmental information processing and immune and nervous system functions in domesticated vs. wild fish may be due to local adaptation to captivity. These included reduced information acquisition and processing systems, altered stress responsiveness and changes in feeding behaviour. In line with the resource allocation theory of production trait animals, reduced immune function was coupled with increased expression of growth and development related pathways in domesticated salmon, compared to wild counterparts. Although there is support for this trade-off in all life-stages, resource allocation showed a shift over time; possibly reflecting variation in the utilization of energy sources during the transition from endogenous to exogenous feeding. Differences in cell communication and signalling pathways between wild and domesticated stocks, associated with organogenesis during the embryo stage, reflect sampling time and are indicative of altered organ development in response to domestication. Stress responses common across stocks included the down-regulation of cellular processes, including cell cycle and meiosis, and genetic information processing, such as replication and repair, transcription and translation pathways, probably reflecting the reallocation of energy resources away from growth and towards the restoration of homeostasis. Moreover, the mobilization of energy to cover the increased demands of maintaining homeostasis was indicated by the up-regulation of some metabolic pathways, mostly involved in energy, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism in response to stress. The analysis also revealed cross-specific stress responses, including indicators of a non-additive stress response in hybrid crosses. Most differentially expressed transcripts exhibited additive (31-59%) or maternal dominant (19-33%) inheritance patterns, although maternal over-dominance (23-26%) was also significant in the embryo stage. The mode of heritability of some immune transcripts was suggestive of maternal environmental influence having been affected by aquaculture. This study has demonstrated that biological functions affected by domestication include those associated with allocation of resources, involve reduction of information acquisition and processing systems and may lead to loss of local adaptation to wild conditions. Since such changes may affect key systems, such as immunity and responsiveness to stress, they can potentially have serious negative consequences under natural conditions. Transcriptomic differences observed between wild and domesticated stocks primarily exhibited additive and maternal dominant inheritance modes. Since gene-flow from farmed fish can be frequent and primarily concerns farmed females, this suggests that introgression due to repeated large scale escape events has the capacity to significantly erode local adaptation.
Supervisor: Taggart, John B. ; Bron, James E. ; Glover, Kevin A. Sponsor: Norwegian Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Atlantic salmon ; Salmo salar ; microarray ; transcript ; wild ; farmed ; domestication ; aquaculture ; gene expression ; escapee ; Salmon