Characterization of natural variation in North American Atlantic Salmon populations (Salmonidae: Salmo salar) at a locus with a major effect on sea age.
ABSTRACT: Age at maturity is a key life-history trait of most organisms. In anadromous salmonid fishes such as Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), age at sexual maturity is associated with sea age, the number of years spent at sea before the spawning migration. For the first time, we investigated the presence of two nonsynonymous vgll3 polymorphisms in North American Atlantic Salmon populations that relate to sea age in European salmon and quantified the natural variation at these and two additional candidate SNPs from two other genes. A targeted resequencing assay was developed and 1,505 returning adult individuals of size-inferred sea age and sex from four populations were genotyped. Across three of four populations sampled in Québec, Canada, the late-maturing component (MSW) of the population of a given sex exhibited higher proportions of SNP genotypes 54Thr vgll3 and 323Lys vgll3 compared to early-maturing fish (1SW), for example, 85% versus 53% of females from Trinité River carried 323Lys vgll3 (nMSW = 205 vs. n1SW = 30; p < .001). However, the association between vgll3 polymorphism and sea age was more pronounced in females than in males in the rivers we studied. Logistic regression analysis of vgll3 SNP genotypes revealed increased probabilities of exhibiting higher sea age for 54Thr vgll3 and 323Lys vgll3 genotypes compared to alternative genotypes, depending on population and sex. Moreover, individuals carrying the heterozygous vgll3 SNP genotypes were more likely (>66%) to be female. In summary, two nonsynonymous vgll3 polymorphisms were confirmed in North American populations of Atlantic Salmon and our results suggest that variation at those loci correlates with sea age and sex. Our results also suggest that this correlation varies among populations. Future work would benefit from a more balanced sampling and from adding data on juvenile riverine life stages to contrast our data.
Project description:BACKGROUND:In Atlantic salmon in the wild, age at maturity is strongly influenced by the vgll3 locus. Under farming conditions, light, temperature and feeding regimes are known significantly advance or delay age at maturity. However, the potential influence of the vgll3 locus on the maturation of salmon reared under farming conditions has been rarely investigated, especially in females. RESULTS:Here, we reared domesticated salmon (mowi strain) with different vgll3 genotypes under standard farming conditions until they matured at either one, two or more than two sea winters. Interestingly, and in contrast to previous findings in the wild, we were not able to identify a link between vgll3 and age at maturity in females when reared under farming conditions. For males however, we found that the probability of delaying maturation from one to two sea winters was significantly lower in fish homozygous for the early allele compared to homozygous fish for the late allele, while the probability for heterozygous fish was intermediate. These data also contrast to previous findings in the wild where the early allele has been reported as dominant. However, we found that the probability of males delaying maturation from two to three sea winters was regulated in the same manner as the wild. CONCLUSIONS:Collectively, our data suggest that increased growth rates in mowi salmon, caused by high feed intake and artificial light and temperature regimes together with other possible genetic/epigenetic components, may significantly influence the impact that the vgll3 locus has on age at maturity, especially in females. In turn, our results show that the vgll3 locus can only to a large extent be used in selective breeding to control age at maturation in mowi males. In summary, we here show that in contrast to the situation in wild salmon, under farming conditions vgll3 does not seem to influence age at maturity in mowi females whereas in mowi males, maturing as one or two sea winters it alters the early allele effect from dominant to intermediate.
Project description:Understanding the mechanisms by which populations adapt to their environments is a fundamental aim in biology. However, it remains challenging to identify the genetic basis of traits, provide evidence of genetic changes and quantify phenotypic responses. Age at maturity in Atlantic salmon represents an ideal trait to study contemporary adaptive evolution as it has been associated with a single locus in the vgll3 region and has also strongly changed in recent decades. Here, we provide an empirical example of contemporary adaptive evolution of a large-effect locus driving contrasting sex-specific evolutionary responses at the phenotypic level. We identified an 18% decrease in the vgll3 allele associated with late maturity in a large and diverse salmon population over 36?years, induced by sex-specific selection during sea migration. Those genetic changes resulted in a significant evolutionary response only in males, due to sex-specific dominance patterns and vgll3 allelic effects. The vgll3 allelic and dominance effects differed greatly in a second population and were likely to generate different selection and evolutionary patterns. Our study highlights the importance of knowledge of genetic architecture to better understand fitness trait evolution and phenotypic diversity. It also emphasizes the potential role of adaptive evolution in the trend towards earlier maturation observed in numerous Atlantic salmon populations worldwide.
Project description:Vgll3 is linked to age at maturity in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). However, the molecular mechanisms involving Vgll3 in controlling timing of puberty as well as relevant tissue and cell types are currently unknown. Vgll3 and the associated Hippo pathway has been linked to reduced proliferation activity in different tissues. Analysis of gene expression reveals for the first time that vgll3 and several members of the Hippo pathway were down-regulated in salmon testis during onset of puberty and remained repressed in maturing testis. In the gonads, we found expression in Sertoli and granulosa cells in males and females, respectively. We hypothesize that vgll3 negatively regulates Sertoli cell proliferation in testis and therefore acts as an inhibitor of pubertal testis growth. Gonadal expression of vgll3 is located to somatic cells that are in direct contact with germ cells in both sexes, however our results indicate sex-biased regulation of vgll3 during puberty.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Farmed Atlantic salmon are one of the most economically significant global aquaculture products. Early sexual maturation of farmed males represents a significant challenge to this industry and has been linked with the vgll3 genotype. However, tools to aid research of this topic, such as all-male and clonal fish, are still lacking. The present 6-year study examined if all-male production is possible in Atlantic salmon, a species with heteromorphic sex chromosomes (males being XY, females XX), and if all-male fish can be applied to further explore the vgll3 contribution on the likelihood of early maturation. RESULTS:Estrogen treatment of mixed sex yolk sac larvae gave rise to one sexually mature hermaphrodite with a male genotype (XY) that was used to produce both self-fertilized offspring and androgenetic double haploid (dh) offspring following egg activation with UV treated sperm and pressure shock to block the first mitotic division. There were YY supermales among both offspring types, which were crossed with dh females. Between 1 and 8% of the putative all-male offspring from the eight crosses with self-fertilized supermales were found to have ovaries, and 95% of these phenotypic females were also genetically female. None of the offspring from the one dh supermale cross had ovaries. When assessing the general contribution of the vgll3 locus on the likelihood of early post-smolt sexual maturation (jacking) in the all-male populations we found individuals that were homozygous for the early maturing genotype (97%) were more likely to enter puberty than individuals that were homozygous for the late maturing genotype (26%). However, the likelihood of jacking within individuals with an early/late heterozygous genotype was higher when the early allele came from the dam (94%) compared to the sire (45%). CONCLUSIONS:The present results show that supermale Atlantic salmon are viable and fertile and can be used as a research tool to study important aspects of sexual maturation, such as to further explore the sex dependent parental genetic contribution to age at puberty in Atlantic salmon. In addition, we report the production of viable double haploid supermale fish.
Project description:Wild and domesticated Atlantic salmon males display large variation for sea age at sexual maturation, which varies between 1-5 years. Previous studies have uncovered a genetic predisposition for variation of age at maturity with moderate heritability, thus suggesting a polygenic or complex nature of this trait. The aim of this study was to identify associated genetic loci, genes and ultimately specific sequence variants conferring sea age at maturity in salmon. We performed a genome wide association study (GWAS) using a pool sequencing approach (20 individuals per river and phenotype) of male salmon returning to rivers as sexually mature either after one sea winter (2009) or three sea winters (2011) in six rivers in Norway. The study revealed one major selective sweep, which covered 76 significant SNPs in which 74 were found in a 370 kb region of chromosome 25. Genotyping other smolt year classes of wild and domesticated salmon confirmed this finding. Genotyping domesticated fish narrowed the haplotype region to four SNPs covering 2386 bp, containing the vgll3 gene, including two missense mutations explaining 33-36% phenotypic variation. A single locus was found to have a highly significant role in governing sea age at maturation in this species. The SNPs identified may be both used as markers to guide breeding for late maturity in salmon aquaculture and in monitoring programs of wild salmon. Interestingly, a SNP in proximity of the VGLL3 gene in humans (Homo sapiens), has previously been linked to age at puberty suggesting a conserved mechanism for timing of puberty in vertebrates.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Understanding genetic architecture is essential for determining how traits will change in response to evolutionary processes such as selection, genetic drift and/or gene flow. In Atlantic salmon, age at maturity is an important life history trait that affects factors such as survival, reproductive success, and growth. Furthermore, age at maturity can seriously impact aquaculture production. Therefore, characterizing the genetic architecture that underlies variation in age at maturity is of key interest. RESULTS:Here, we refine our understanding of the genetic architecture for age at maturity of male Atlantic salmon using a genome-wide association study of 11,166 males from a single aquaculture strain, using imputed genotypes at 512,397 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). All individuals were genotyped with a 50K SNP array and imputed to higher density using parents genotyped with a 930K SNP array and pedigree information. We found significant association signals on 28 of 29 chromosomes (P-values: 8.7 × 10-133-9.8 × 10-8), including two very strong signals spanning the six6 and vgll3 gene regions on chromosomes 9 and 25, respectively. Furthermore, we identified 116 independent signals that tagged 120 candidate genes with varying effect sizes. Five of the candidate genes found here were previously associated with age at maturity in other vertebrates, including humans. DISCUSSION:These results reveal a mixed architecture of large-effect loci and a polygenic component that consists of multiple smaller-effect loci, suggesting a more complex genetic architecture of Atlantic salmon age at maturity than previously thought. This more complex architecture will have implications for selection on this key trait in aquaculture and for management of wild salmon populations.
Project description:Despite recent taxonomic diversification in studies linking genotype with phenotype, follow-up studies aimed at understanding the molecular processes of such genotype-phenotype associations remain rare. The age at which an individual reaches sexual maturity is an important fitness trait in many wild species. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating maturation timing processes remain obscure. A recent genome-wide association study in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) identified large-effect age-at-maturity-associated chromosomal regions including genes vgll3, akap11 and six6, which have roles in adipogenesis, spermatogenesis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, respectively. Here, we determine expression patterns of these genes during salmon development and their potential molecular partners and pathways. Using Nanostring transcription profiling technology, we show development- and tissue-specific mRNA expression patterns for vgll3, akap11 and six6 Correlated expression levels of vgll3 and akap11, which have adjacent chromosomal location, suggests they may have shared regulation. Further, vgll3 correlating with arhgap6 and yap1, and akap11 with lats1 and yap1 suggests that Vgll3 and Akap11 take part in actin cytoskeleton regulation. Tissue-specific expression results indicate that vgll3 and akap11 paralogs have sex-dependent expression patterns in gonads. Moreover, six6 correlating with slc38a6 and rtn1, and Hippo signaling genes suggests that Six6 could have a broader role in the HPG neuroendrocrine and cell fate commitment regulation, respectively. We conclude that Vgll3, Akap11 and Six6 may influence Atlantic salmon maturation timing via affecting adipogenesis and gametogenesis by regulating cell fate commitment and the HPG axis. These results may help to unravel general molecular mechanisms behind maturation.
Project description:Sea lice have significant negative economic and welfare impacts on marine Atlantic salmon farming. Since host resistance to sea lice has a substantial genetic component, selective breeding can contribute to control of lice. Genomic selection uses genome-wide marker information to predict breeding values, and can achieve markedly higher accuracy than pedigree-based methods. Our aim was to assess the genetic architecture of host resistance to sea lice, and test the utility of genomic prediction of breeding values. Individual lice counts were measured in challenge experiments using two large Atlantic salmon post-smolt populations from a commercial breeding programme, which had genotypes for ~33 K single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The specific objectives were to: (i) estimate the heritability of host resistance; (ii) assess its genetic architecture by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS); (iii) assess the accuracy of predicted breeding values using varying SNP densities (0.5 to 33 K) and compare it to that of pedigree-based prediction; and (iv) evaluate the accuracy of prediction in closely and distantly related animals.Heritability of host resistance was significant (0.22 to 0.33) in both populations using either pedigree or genomic relationship matrices. The GWAS suggested that lice resistance is a polygenic trait, and no genome-wide significant quantitative trait loci were identified. Based on cross-validation analysis, genomic predictions were more accurate than pedigree-based predictions for both populations. Although prediction accuracies were highest when closely-related animals were used in the training and validation sets, the benefit of having genomic-versus pedigree-based predictions within a population increased as the relationships between training and validation sets decreased. Prediction accuracy reached an asymptote with a SNP density of ~5 K within populations, although higher SNP density was advantageous for cross-population prediction.Host resistance to sea lice in farmed Atlantic salmon has a significant genetic component. Phenotypes relating to host resistance can be predicted with moderate to high accuracy within populations, with a major advantage of genomic over pedigree-based methods, even at relatively sparse SNP densities. Prediction accuracies across populations were low, but improved with higher marker densities. Genomic selection can contribute to lice control in salmon farming.
Project description:A major goal in biology is to understand how evolution shapes variation in individual life histories. Genome-wide association studies have been successful in uncovering genome regions linked with traits underlying life history variation in a range of species. However, lack of functional studies of the discovered genotype-phenotype associations severely restrains our understanding how alternative life history traits evolved and are mediated at the molecular level. Here, we report a cis-regulatory mechanism whereby expression of alternative isoforms of the transcription co-factor vestigial-like 3 (vgll3) associate with variation in a key life history trait, age at maturity, in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Using a common-garden experiment, we first show that vgll3 genotype associates with puberty timing in one-year-old salmon males. By way of temporal sampling of vgll3 expression in ten tissues across the first year of salmon development, we identify a pubertal transition in vgll3 expression where maturation coincided with a 66% reduction in testicular vgll3 expression. The late maturation allele was not only associated with a tendency to delay puberty, but also with expression of a rare transcript isoform of vgll3 pre-puberty. By comparing absolute vgll3 mRNA copies in heterozygotes we show that the expression difference between the early and late maturity alleles is largely cis-regulatory. We propose a model whereby expression of a rare isoform from the late allele shifts the liability of its carriers towards delaying puberty. These results exemplify the potential importance of regulatory differences as a mechanism for the evolution of life history traits.
Project description:Study revealed new information about molecular functions of the vgll3, akap11 and six6 genes associated with age-at-maturity in Atlantic salmon Overall design: In the study presented here, expression patterns of three genes associated with age-at-maturity in Atlantic salmon, their paralogs and 205 additional genes were studied in whole hatchery-derived individuals of two embryonic stages, alevin and fry, blood of fry and in different tissues of both hatchery-derived and and wild three-year-old parr.