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Animal Breeding, Genetics, & Genomics

Aquaculture (Fish and Other Water Animals) Genome Effort

The long-term goal of the Aquaculture Genome Effort is to enhance disease resistance of catfish by mapping quantitative trait loci (QTL), marker-assisted selection, genetic engineering, or introgression of valuable disease resistance QTLs from both channel catfish and blue catfish. NIFA-supported, collaborative research efforts involve scientists from Auburn University, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois. The research will produce genomic resources to accelerate linkage and QTL mapping using comparative genome mapping.

Significant progress to date is marked by these achievements:

  • More than 30,000 Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) have been sequenced, of which about 13,000 have been deposited to dbEST database; data analysis of the remaining clones is under way.
  • More than 1,000 unique genes containing microsatellites have been identified; many additional microsatellite-containing genes are being identified through bioinformatic analysis.
  • More than 160 unique genes containing Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNPs) have been identified, of which 20 have been validated. Additional SNPs are being identified and validated.
  • Mapping of the type I microsatellites and SNPs is under way.

Two key genomic tools produced through these collaborative efforts are the ESTs and the type I markers, including both type I microsatellites and SNPs. The most important application of these resources is to allow comparative genomics and functional genomics in aquaculture (fish and other water) species. This alone will translate into savings of millions of dollars in research efforts and capitalize on research progress for other species, including human, mouse, bovine, swine, chicken, sheep, and horse. The zebrafish and pufferfish, whose entire genome is almost completely sequenced, have been particularly helpful in advancing this research.

Upon generation of EST sequences, unique ESTs will be identified and made available to the research community for use in cDNA microarray technology. The ESTs and EST microarrays will add a new dimension to fish disease research. This project is a basic scientific research project that focuses on discovery and its practical applications can be long term. In the meantime, this project will accelerate research progress toward genetic enhancement in disease resistance.

The long-term economic impact is tremendous, considering that a 30 percent improvement in disease resistance translates into $45 million reduction in annual loss caused by diseases.

Contact: Zhanjiang (John) Liu, Auburn University.


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