Gene Expression Response to Sea Lice in Atlantic Salmon Skin: RNA Sequencing Comparison Between Resistant and Susceptible Animals

Diego Robledo Sanchez, Alejandro Gutierrez Silva, Agustin Barria, José Manuel Yáñez, Ross Houston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sea lice are parasitic copepods that cause large economic losses to salmon aquaculture worldwide. Frequent chemotherapeutic treatments are typically required to control this parasite, and alternative measures such as breeding for improved host resistance are desirable. Insight into the host–parasite interaction and mechanisms of host resistance can lead to improvements in selective breeding, and potentially novel treatment targets.
In this study, RNA sequencing was used to study the skin transcriptome of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) parasitized with sea lice (Caligus rogercresseyi). The overall aims were to compare the transcriptomic profile of skin at louse attachment sites and “healthy” skin, and to assess differences in gene expression response between animals with varying levels of resistance to the parasite. Atlantic salmon pre-smolts were challenged with C. rogercresseyi, growth and lice count measurements were taken for each fish. 21 animals were selected and RNA-Seq was performed on skin from a louse attachment site, and skin distal to attachment sites for each animal. These animals were classified into family-balanced groups according to the traits of resistance (high vs. low lice count), and growth during infestation. Overall comparison of skin from louse attachment sites vs. healthy skin showed that 4,355 genes were differentially expressed, indicating local up-regulation of several immune pathways and activation of tissue repair mechanisms. Comparison between resistant and susceptible animals highlighted expression differences in several immune response and pattern recognition genes, and also myogenic and iron availability factors. Components of the pathways involved in differential response to sea lice may be targets for studies aimed at improved or novel treatment strategies, or to prioritize candidate functional polymorphisms to enhance
genomic selection for host resistance in commercial salmon breeding programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number287
JournalFrontiers in genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018


  • Caligus rogercresseyi
  • Salmo salar
  • aquaculture
  • disease
  • parasite
  • RNA-Seq
  • host–parasite
  • differential expression


Dive into the research topics of 'Gene Expression Response to Sea Lice in Atlantic Salmon Skin: RNA Sequencing Comparison Between Resistant and Susceptible Animals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this