Heritability and mechanisms of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid deposition in the flesh of Atlantic salmon

Michael J. Leaver*, John B. Taggart, Laure Villeneuve, James E. Bron, Derrick R. Guy, Stephen C. Bishop, Ross D. Houston, Oswald Matika, Douglas R. Tocher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3LC-PUFA) are essential components of vertebrate membrane lipids and are now at critically low levels in modem Western diets. The main human dietary source for n-3LC-PUFA is fish and seafood, and over 50% of global fish production is currently supplied by aquaculture. However, increasing pressure to include vegetable oils, which are devoid of n-3LC-PUFA, in aquaculture feeds reduces their content in farmed fish flesh. The aim of this study was to measure the heritability and infer mechanisms determining flesh n-3LC-PUFA content in Atlantic salmon. This was achieved by analysing flesh lipid parameters in 48 families of Atlantic salmon and by measuring differences, by high density microarray, in hepatic mRNA expression in families with high and low flesh n-3LC-PUFA. The results show that flesh n-3LC-PUFA composition is a highly heritable trait (h(2) = 0.77 +/- 0.14). Gene ontology analysis of differentially expressed genes indicates increased hepatic lipid transport, likely as very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), and implicates family differences in transforming growth factor beta 1 (Tgf beta 1) signalling, activities of a transcription factor Snail, and considered together may indicate alterations in hepatic nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4 alpha), a master controller of lipid homeostasis. This study paves the way for identification of quantitative trait loci and gene interaction networks that are associated with flesh n-3LC-PUFA composition, which will assist the sustainable production of Atlantic salmon and provide optimal levels of critical nutrients for human consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part D: Genomics and Proteomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • n-3LC-PUFA
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Heritability
  • Liver
  • Flesh
  • Microarray
  • HNF4 alpha
  • TGF beta 1
  • SALAR L.


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