Xelect collaboration reveals greater potential for natural genetic variation to boost aquaculture

For decades we’ve known that well-designed genetic selection programs can result in major gains in fish production. However new research into Atlantic salmon, spearheaded by Dr. Alicia Bertolotti, has highlighted a hitherto untapped resource of genetic variation that could help unlock even greater production benefits.

Information source: Xelect / media release

The most common type of genetic variant distinguishing individuals of the same species are single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which are differences in a single ‘letter’ of the DNA code.

Structural variation is another major class of genetic variation, where large sections of the genetic code can be duplicated, inverted, or even completely absent comparing different individuals.

As structural variations are passed from one generation to the next, they provide another potentially valuable tool to use when maximizing production gains for fish farmers. Recent breakthroughs in computing power, bioinformatic algorithms and improvements in genetic sequencing technology have made it possible to identify structural variants, though this remains challenging.

Dr. Bertolotti’s research involved sequencing the genomes of 492 Atlantic salmon in a
project led by Professor Dan Macqueen at the Roslin Institute (University of
Edinburgh) in partnership with Xelect, the University of Aberdeen and many
international collaborators. This team included the Norwegian University of Life
Sciences as a key collaborator, providing much of the sequencing data among other
important contributions.

It was the first major study into structural variants in any farmed fish and the results have been published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is a key output from Alicia’s Ph.D., completed at Aberdeen, under the industrial CASE scheme of the UK’s Biotechnology & Biological research Council (BBSRC). Xelect acted as the sole industry partner, contributing funding, a work placement, and access to
Xelect’s large archive of DNA samples and trait data. Xelect CEO Prof. Ian Johnston co-supervised the doctorate, and Alicia spent several months working in Xelect’s lab in St Andrews.

The most common type of genetic variant distinguishing individuals of the same species are single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which are differences in a single ‘letter’ of the DNA code. Structural variation is another major class of genetic variation, where large sections of the genetic code can be duplicated, inverted, or even completely absent comparing different individuals.

As structural variations are passed from one generation to the next, they provide another potentially valuable tool to use when maximizing production gains for fish farmers. Recent breakthroughs in computing power, bioinformatic algorithms, and improvements in genetic sequencing technology have made it possible to identify structural variants, though this remains challenging.

Dr. Bertolotti’s research involved sequencing the genomes of 492 Atlantic salmon in a project led by Professor Dan Macqueen at the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) in partnership with Xelect, the University of Aberdeen, and many international collaborators. This team included the Norwegian University of Life
Sciences as a key collaborator, providing much of the sequencing data among other important contributions.

It was the first major study into structural variants in any farmed fish and the results have been published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is a key output from Alicia’s Ph.D., completed at Aberdeen, under the industrial CASE scheme of the UK’s Biotechnology & Biological research Council (BBSRC). Xelect acted as the sole industry partner, contributing funding, a work placement, and access to
Xelect’s large archive of DNA samples and trait data. Xelect CEO Prof. Ian Johnston co-supervised the doctorate, and Alicia spent several months working in Xelect’s lab in St Andrews.

Further information: www.xelect-genetics.com

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