The overall goal of this project is to develop a novel molecular tool that will monitor health and performance of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). The tool will take the form of an oligonucleotide array for probing key elements of the transcriptome involved in polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism, protein catabolism, responses to bacterial and viral challenge, and the process of freshwater to seawater adaptation (smoltification). These aspects of the biology/metabolism of salmon were selected on the basis t hat fatty acid synthesis and storage, food conversion efficiency, infectious disease and adaptation to seawater present the greatest challenges in salmon rearing systems at the present time.
This Marie Curie project will focus specifically on fatty acid me tabolism with the challenge being salmon grown on fish oil (FO) and vegetable oil (VO) diets, driven by the following. Fish are the only major dietary source for humans of n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) including eicosapentaenoic and docosahexae noic acids that are crucial to the health of vertebrates and, with declining fisheries, farmed fish such as Atlantic salmon constitute an increasing proportion of the fish in the human diet. However, the current high use of FO, from feed-grade fisheries, in feeds is not sustainable, and will constrain growth of aquaculture.
The only sustainable alternative to fish oils are VO, which are rich in C18 polyunsaturated fatty acids, but devoid of the n-3HUFA that are abundant in fish oils. Changes in fatty acid metabolism in salmon induced by VO replacement of FO in diets can have a negative impact on the nutritional quality of the product for the human consumer by altering flesh fatty acid composition. In addition to the development of the diagnostic array, this project also aims to identify salmon candidate genes associated with the ability to synthesis and retain n-3HUFA in the flesh, and thus provide the genetic basis for new marker-assisted selection strategies.
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