Novel insights into the genetic relationship between growth and disease resistance in an aquaculture strain of Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Agustin Barria, Andrea Wilson, Jean P. Lhorente, Ross Houston, José M. Yáñeza,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Breeding for disease resistance has become a highly desirable strategy for mitigating infectious disease problems in aquaculture. However, knowledge of the genetic relationship between resistance and other economically important traits, such as growth, is important to assess prior to including disease resistance into the breeding goal. Our study assessed the genetic correlations between growth and survival traits in a large bacterial infection challenge experiment. A population of 2606 coho salmon individuals from 107 full-sibling families were challenged with the bacteria Piscirickettsia salmonis. Growth was measured as average daily gain prior (ADG0) and during (ADGi) the experimental infection and as harvest weight (HW). Resistance was measured as Survival time (ST) and binary survival (BS). Furthermore, individual measures of bacterial load (BL) were assessed as new resistance phenotypes and to provide an indication of genetic variation in tolerance in salmonid species. Resistant families showed lower bacterial load than those susceptible to P. salmonis. Furthermore, some surviving fish belonging to resistant families, were considered as bacterial-free because their bacterial load was below the detection threshold. Adding logBL as a covariate into the models for growth under infection and survival indicated significant genetic variation in tolerance.

Significant moderate heritabilities were estimated for ADG0 (0.30 ± 0.05), HW (0.38 ± 0.03), and for the survival traits ST (0.16 ± 0.03) and BS (0.18 ± 0.03). In contrast, heritabilities for ADGi and log-transformed BL were low (0.07 ± 0.02 (significant) and 0.04 ± 0.03, respectively), although these increased to moderate significant levels (0.20 ± 0.09 and 0.12 ± 0.05, respectively) when traits were assessed in survivors only. Significant favorable genetic correlations were found between ADG0 and ADGi (0.40 ± 0.16), HW (0.64 ± 0.09), and with resistance as ST (0.43 ± 0.18), indicating that fish with higher genetic growth rate early on and prior to infection not only tend to maintain their genetic growth advantage until harvest, but also tend to grow faster and survive longer during infection. Although a significant unfavorable correlation (−0.50 ± 0.13) between HW and ST was found, this value decreased to −0.35 ± 0.20 using uncensored data from non-survivors only. Similarly, no robust unfavorable genetic correlations between ADG0 and LogBL, or ADG0 and any of the other traits considered in this study, was identified. These results suggest that selective breeding for early growth, in the current coho salmon population, would be expected to simultaneously increase survival time and growth performance during an infection with Piscirickettsia salmonis, without negatively impacting on pathogen burden
Original languageEnglish
Article number734207
Early online date10 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Aquaculture
  • Bacterial infection;
  • Disease resistance;
  • Genetic correlation;
  • Growth rate


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