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Scientists Have Mapped Out the Genome of the Striped Catfish

The Mekong river delta in Vietnam is the largest inland fishery in the world and the striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) is farmed here in vast amounts, with approximately 1.1 million tonnes of fish being cultured over 5000 hectares.

Now, a new study published in BMC Genomics by scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology have decoded the striped catfish's entire genome.

The study, published in the journal BMC Genomics, set out to gain a greater understanding of the genes embedded in the genome of the striped catfish which could then be compared to those genes found inside the zebrafish and channel catfish, two closely related species. Using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing techniques, the researchers gradually completed the puzzle and found the loss of two genes in the striped catfish that remain intact in the zebrafish. These genes and the species to produce its own sunscreen, something not needed for the striped catfish as they feed at the bottom of rivers, beyond the reach of UV-rays. However, the striped catfish does have more insulin-like growth factor genes than zebrafish, which may be key to its healthy growth and development.

The researchers also believe that optimal DNA fragments known as ‘molecular markers’ can now be targeted. This will allow for selective breeding to take place, ensuring efficiency in production.

"With this genomic data, it will be easy to check the diversification present in individual catfish populations," said Eiichi Shoguchi, group leader of the Marine Genomics Unit at OIST and co-first author of the study. "In aquaculture, for example, an individual fish may be more resilient against disease than another. Now, you can check that individual's genome and learn which gene is related to disease resistance."

“The striped catfish genome information will enable us to develop these molecular markers and subsequently apply them in molecular marker-assisted selection for traits of economic importance in the catfish aquaculture," said Oanh T. P. Kim, a lab head in the Institute of Genome Research at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and co-first author of the study.

Nearly 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. The intense pressure being put on our oceans has led to an increase in aquaculture production that is expected to reach a market size of $219 billion by the year 2022. Therefore, research such as this is incredibly important as the demand of human consumption becomes ever more dependent on aquaculture.

By Ellis Moloney

Kim, O., Nguyen, P., Shoguchi, E., Hisata, K., Vo, T., Inoue, J., Shinzato, C., Le, B., Nishitsuji, K., Kanda, M., Nguyen, V., Nong, H. and Satoh, N. (2018). A draft genome of the striped catfish, Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, for comparative analysis of genes relevant to development and a resource for aquaculture improvement. BMC Genomics, 19(1).

This work was supported by “Development and Application of Biotechnology in Aquaculture Program” from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) of Vietnam.

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