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J Exp Biol. 2006 Apr;209(Pt 7):1310-25.

Cardiorespiratory modifications, and limitations, in post-smolt growth hormone transgenic Atlantic salmon Salmo salar.

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  • 1Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland A1C 5S7, Canada.


In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in how growth hormone (GH) transgenesis affects fish physiology. However, the results of these studies are often difficult to interpret because the transgenic and non-transgenic fish had very different environmental/rearing histories. This study used a stable line of size-matched GH Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) that were reared in a shared tank with controls (at 10 degrees C, for approximately 9 months) to perform a comprehensive examination of the cardiorespiratory physiology of GH transgenic salmon, and serves as a novel test of the theory of symmorphosis. The GH transgenic salmon had a 3.6x faster growth rate, and 21 and 25% higher values for mass-specific routine and standard oxygen consumption (M(O(2))), respectively. However, there was no concurrent increase in their maximum M(O(2)), which resulted in them having an 18% lower metabolic scope and a 9% reduction in critical swimming speed. This decreased metabolic capacity/performance was surprising given that the transgenics had a 29% larger heart with an 18% greater mass-specific maximum in situ cardiac output, a 14% greater post-stress blood haemoglobin concentration, 5-10% higher red muscle and heart aerobic enzyme (citrate synthase or cytochrome oxidase) activities, and twofold higher resting and 1.7x higher post-stress, catecholamine levels. However, gill surface area was the only cardiorespiratory parameter that was not enhanced, and our data suggest that gill oxygen transfer may have been limiting. Overall, this research: (1) shows that there are significant metabolic costs associated with GH transgenesis in this line of Atlantic salmon; (2) provides the first direct evidence that cardiac function is enhanced by GH transgenesis; (3) shows that a universal upregulation of post-smolt (adult) GH transgenic salmon cardiorespiratory physiology, as suggested by symmorphosis, does not occur; and (4) supports the idea that whereas differences in arterial oxygen transport (i.e. cardiac output and blood oxygen carrying capacity) are important determinants of inter-specific differences in aerobicity, diffusion-limited processes must be enhanced to achieve substantial intra-specific improvements in metabolic and swimming performance.

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