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International Consortium Announces Sequencing of Atlantic Salmon Genome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — An international consortium announced today that it has sequenced the Atlantic salmon genome.

A salmon reference genome, the researchers said, will assist in aquaculture farming of the fish, help conserve wild stocks, and inform studies of related species like Pacific salmon and rainbow trout.

"Knowledge of the whole genome makes it possible to see how genes interact with each other, and examine the exact gene that governs a certain trait such as resistance against a particular disease," Steinar Bergseth, the chair of the international steering committee for the International Cooperation to Sequence the Atlantic Salmon Genome, said in a statement.

The ICSASG is a partnership between funding agencies, industry, and researchers in Canada, Chile, and Norway, and it presented the Atlantic salmon genome at the International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology, taking place in Vancouver this week. A press spokesperson for Genome BC noted that publications based on the sequence are underway.

Worldwide, commercial salmon production is in excess of 1 billion pounds, with much of those fish coming from aquaculture farms. In Canada, aquaculture of Atlantic salmon brings in revenue of more than $600 million each year.

When the consortium announced this project in a letter in Genome Biology in 2010, it noted that the salmon genome presented a number of challenges. In particular, they said, it is an autotetraploid genome containing long and frequent repeats.

However, the consortium said that it would surmount some of those issues by sequencing a double-haploid female fish — nicknamed Sally — that was produced by mitotic androgenesis.

With a copy of the salmon genome, researchers and industry partners hope to be able to better breed fish that are healthier and grow faster.

"The sequence will make it possible to develop new, more effective selective breeding tools that will make us even better at choosing parent fish with desired traits for the next generation of salmon," Petter Arnesen, the director of breeding at the Norwegian fish farming company and ICSASG partner Marine Harvest, said in a statement.

"Enhanced knowledge about the genetic material allows us to utilize more of the genetic variation from within the stocks that farmed salmon are produced from," he added. "Furthermore, the sequence opens up new prospects for studying biological and physiological processes."

The Atlantic salmon genome is to be made available in GenBank.