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Scientists Close In On Salmon Virus Resistance Gene

Salmonids Health Welfare +4 more

UK - A team of UK researchers are closing in on a gene that affectsresistance of Atlantic salmon to infectious pancreatic necrosis virus.

The Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN) virus is a major killer in commercial salmon farming causing high levels of mortality in young salmon in all markets worldwide. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh (including the world renowned Roslin Institute) and the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling are collaborating with Geneticists at Landcatch Natural Selection Ltd (LNS), the UK-based International Salmon breeding company to find this gene.

The team were first to publish evidence of the presence of an IPN resistance gene in 2008; the beneficial version of the key gene appears to essentially prevent the death of salmon from IPN. For the first time in aquaculture, LNS used these results to apply marker-assisted selection, an advanced form of selective breeding, to improve resistance to IPN in their commercial strains.

The collaboration has continued with work underway to find the precise location of the gene in the salmon genome. New methods, based on the use of novel DNA sequencing technologies, were used to identify additional genetic markers, closer to the resistance gene. These improved Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers have recently been applied to families from the LNS breeding programme to select the most resistant fish for breeding.

Dr Ross Houston, who is leading the research at The Roslin Institute said “By using the latest DNA sequencing technology, we have now identified improved genetic markers which are accurate predictors of IPN survival in aquaculture salmon populations. This brings us much closer to identifying the gene responsible for resistance”.

While researchers at Roslin and Stirling concentrate on finding the gene, geneticists at LNS are using the new markers to further improve their ability to identify salmon resistant to IPN for breeding. “Our work with Roslin and Stirling has allowed continuous improvement in the technology being used on breeding farms in Scotland, Chile and Norway” said Dr Alan Tinch, Breeding Programme Director of LNS. “We have been able to identify fish genetically resistant to IPN in our own and customer breeding programmes using natural methods, without resorting to Genetic Modification”.

Such work shows that leading-edge genetic and genomic technology can be applied to modern selective breeding of farmed salmon to sustainably improve health, welfare and performance.