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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 9;8(10):e75749. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075749. eCollection 2013.

Assessment of genetic correlation between bacterial cold water disease resistance and spleen index in a domesticated population of rainbow trout: identification of QTL on chromosome Omy19.

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National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Kearneysville, West Virginia, United States of America.


Selective breeding of animals for increased disease resistance is an effective strategy to reduce mortality in aquaculture. However, implementation of selective breeding programs is limited by an incomplete understanding of host resistance traits. We previously reported results of a rainbow trout selection program that demonstrated increased survival following challenge with Flavobacterium psychrophilum, the causative agent of bacterial cold water disease (BCWD). Mechanistic study of disease resistance identified a positive phenotypic correlation between post-challenge survival and spleen somatic-index (SI). Herein, we investigated the hypothesis of a genetic correlation between the two traits influenced by colocalizing QTL. We evaluated the inheritance and calculated the genetic correlation in five year-classes of odd- and even-year breeding lines. A total of 322 pedigreed families (n = 25,369 fish) were measured for disease resistance, and 251 families (n = 5,645 fish) were evaluated for SI. Spleen index was moderately heritable in both even-year (h(2)  = 0.56±0.18) and odd-year (h(2)  = 0.60±0.15) lines. A significant genetic correlation between SI and BCWD resistance was observed in the even-year line (rg  = 0.45±0.20, P = 0.03) but not in the odd-year line (rg  = 0.16±0.12, P = 0.19). Complex segregation analyses of the even-year line provided evidence of genes with major effect on SI, and a genome scan of a single family, 2008132, detected three significant QTL on chromosomes Omy19, 16 and 5, in addition to ten suggestive QTL. A separate chromosome scan for disease resistance in family 2008132 identified a significant BCWD QTL on Omy19 that was associated with time to death and percent survival. In family 2008132, Omy19 microsatellite alleles that associated with higher disease resistance also associated with increased spleen size raising the hypothesis that closely linked QTL contribute to the correlation between these traits. To our knowledge, this is the first estimation of spleen size heritability and evidence for genetic linkage with specific disease resistance in a teleost fish.

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