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BMC Genet. 2007 Dec 21;8:87.

The influence of gene-environment interactions on GHR and IGF-1 expression and their association with growth in brook charr, Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill).

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Département de biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Québec, Canada.



Quantitative reaction norm theory proposes that genotype-by-environment interaction (GxE) results from inter-individual differences of expression in adaptive suites of genes in distinct environments. However, environmental norms for actual gene suites are poorly documented. In this study, we investigated the effects of GxE interactions on levels of gene transcription and growth by documenting the impact of rearing environment (freshwater vs. saltwater), sex and genotypic (low vs. high estimated breeding value EBV) effects on the transcription level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and growth hormone receptor (GHR) in brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis).


Males grew faster than females (micro female symbol = 1.20 +/- 0.07 g.d-1, micro male symbol = 1.46 +/- 0.06 g.d-1) and high-EBV fish faster than low-EBV fish (microLOW = 0.97 +/- 0.05 g.d-1, muHIGH = 1.58 +/- 0.07 g.d-1; p < 0.05). However, growth was markedly lower in saltwater-reared fish than freshwater sibs (microFW = 1.52 +/- 0.07 g.d-1, microSW = 1.15 +/- 0.06 g.d-1), yet GHR mRNA transcription level was significantly higher in saltwater than in freshwater (microSW = 0.85 +/- 0.05, microFW = 0.61 +/- 0.05). The ratio of actual growth to units in assayed mRNA ('individual transcript efficiency', iTE; g.d-1.u-1) also differed among EBV groups (microLOW = 2.0 +/- 0.24 g.d-1.u-1; microHIGH = 3.7 +/- 0.24 g.d-1.u-1) and environments (microSW = 2.0 +/- 0.25 g.d-1.u-1; microFW = 3.7 +/- 0.25 g.d-1.u-1) for GHR. Males had a lower iTE for GHR than females (micro male symbol = 2.4 +/- 0.29 g.d-1.u-1; micro female symbol = 3.1 +/- 0.23 g.d-1.u-1). There was no difference in IGF-1 transcription level between environments (p > 0.7) or EBV groups (p > 0.15) but the level of IGF-1 was four times higher in males than females (micro male symbol = 2.4 +/- 0.11, micro female symbol = 0.58 +/- 0.09; p < 0.0001). We detected significant sexual differences in iTE (micro male symbol = 1.3 +/- 0.59 g.d-1.u-1; micro female symbol = 3.9 +/- 0.47 g.d-1.u-1), salinities (microSW = 2.3 +/- 0.52 g.d-1.u-1; microFW = 3.7 +/- 0.53 g.d-1.u-1) and EBV-groups (microLOW = 2.4 +/- 0.49 g.d-1.u-1; microHIGH = 3.8 +/- 0.49 g.d-1.u-1). Interaction between EBV-group and environment was detected for both GHR (p = 0.027) and IGF-1 (p = 0.019), and for iTE in the two genes (p < 0.0001; p < 0.05, respectively), where increased divergence in levels of GHR and IGF-1 transcription occurred among EBV-groups in the saltwater environment.


Our results show that both environment and sex have major impacts on the expression of mRNA for two key genes involved in the physiological pathway for growth. We also demonstrate for the first time, at least in fish, genotype-by-environment interaction at the level of individual gene transcription. This work contributes significantly to ongoing efforts towards documenting environmentally and sexually induced variance of gene activity and understanding the resulting phenotypes.

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