Selective breeding for improving host responses to infectious pathogens is a promising option for disease control. In fact, disease resilience, the ability of a host to survive or cope with infectious challenge, has become a highly desirable breeding goal. However, resilience is a complex trait composed of two different host defence mechanisms, namely resistance (the ability of a host to avoid becoming infected or diseased) and endurance (the ability of an infected host to survive the infection). While both could be targeted for genetic improvement, it is currently unknown how they contribute to survival, as reliable estimates of genetic parameters for both traits obtained simultaneously are scarce. A difficulty lies in obtaining endurance phenotypes for genetic analyses. In this study, we present the results from an innovative challenge test carried out in turbot whose design allowed disentangling the genetic basis of resistance and endurance to Philasterides dicentrarchi, a parasite causing scuticociliatosis that leads to substantial economic losses in the aquaculture industry. A noticeable characteristic of the parasite is that it causes visual signs that can be used for disentangling resistance and endurance. Our results showed the existence of genetic variation for both traits (heritability = 0.26 and 0.12 for resistance and endurance, respectively) and for the composite trait resilience (heritability = 0.15). The genetic correlation between resistance and resilience was very high (0.90) indicating that both are at a large extent the same trait, but no significant genetic correlation was found between resistance and endurance. A total of 18,125 SNPs obtained from 2b-RAD sequencing enabled genome-wide association analyses for detecting QTLs controlling the three traits.
A candidate QTL region on linkage group 19 that explains 33% of the additive genetic variance was identified for resilience. The region contains relevant genes related to immune response and defence mechanisms. Although no significant associations were found for resistance, the pattern of association was the same as for resilience. Forendurance, one significant association was found on linkage group 2. The accuracy of genomic breeding values was also explored for resilience, showing that it increasedby 12% when compared with the accuracy of pedigree-based breeding values. To our knowledge, this is the first study in turbot disentangling the genetic basis of resistance and endurance to scuticociliatosis.