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From salmon genome to industrial value

When the sequencing of the salmon genome is completed in the first half of 2013, it will generate a treasure trove of knowledge for solving current challenges in salmon production.

The Research Council of Norway is encouraging researchers to use information from the salmon genome to enhance understanding of the mechanisms behind the traits and biology of this valuable production species. Three projects have been granted a total of NOK 41 million for this purpose.

Understanding salmon biology

Knowledge about how traits are regulated can help to raise the efficiency of selective breeding programmes through more precise selection of broodstock individuals.

“The challenge now is to convert new genomic information into biological understanding by using biotechnology tools and expertise,” says Christina Abildgaard, Director of the Research Council of Norway’s Department for Environmental Research and Marine Resources. “It will be exciting to follow these projects for improving selective breeding of production salmon, both in general and specifically targeting sea lice and climate change.”

Illustration: Jon Solberg New knowledge about the genetic material of salmon is a springboard for valuable research. (Illustration: Jon Solberg)

Innovative biotechnology and industrial value

The projects have been assessed on the basis of scientific merit, innovativeness from a biotechnology standpoint, and overall benefits to trade and industry.

The Norwegian aquaculture industry has been co-funding the salmon genome mapping and is also involved in further relevant research; each of the three projects has industrial partners. Plans for international collaboration have also been an important assessment criterion.

The three projects awarded funding were selected from the 12 grant applications (seeking a total of NOK 185 million) responding to a call for proposals issued jointly by the Research Council's HAVBRUK and BIOTEK2021 programmes. Grant applications have been assessed by an international referee panel, and the final funding decisions have been taken by the two programme boards.

The three winning projects

Precise selective breeding using genomic information

The objective of the project is to develop methods for precise selective breeding. Initially the researchers will focus on traits for fillet texture, muscle/fat growth and resistance to pancreas disease (PD) in salmon. In the next phase the objective will be to expand the methods into a broad-range, sustainable selective breeding programme that includes all important traits.

Project owner: Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB)
Project manager: Theo Meuwissen, UMB
In collaboration with: Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima), Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Marine Harvest, SalmoBreed, the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)


Marker-based selective breeding for controlling onset age of sexual maturation at higher ocean temperatures

Rising marine temperatures due to climate change can exacerbate the problem of early sexual maturation in production salmon. The project objective is to find the genes or gene areas that regulate the onset age of sexual maturation in salmon. Since other environmental factors such as light and food supply can also influence sexual maturation, the project also seeks to identify epigenetic mechanisms that have an impact on sexual maturation.

Project owner: Institute of Marine Research
Project manager: Anna Troedsson-Wargelius, Institute of Marine Research
In collaboration with: Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), Utrecht University, Uppsala University, GenØk - Centre for Biosafety, and Aqua Gen


Increasing Atlantic salmon resistance to sea lice

The project objective is to develop new strategies for addressing the threat of sea lice to both wild and production salmon. Using data from controlled infection trials as well as genetic knowledge and tools, the researchers will identify the genetic mechanisms significant in salmon receptiveness to sea lice infestation. This can yield a basis for selectively breeding salmon for higher resistance to sea lice.

Project owner: Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB)
Project manager: Sigbjørn Lien, UMB
In collaboration with: Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, University of Bergen, University of Victoria (Canada) and Aqua Gen


Written by:
Anne Ditlefsen/Else Lie. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann
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