Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and the receptor, GHRHR, constitute important components of the hypothalamus-pituitary growth axis and act on the downstream growth hormone (GH). PACAP-related peptide/pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PRP-PACAP) is a paralog of GHRH. These genes all play key roles in development and growth patterns. To improve the quality of cultured fish strains, natural genetic variation must be examined and understood. A mixed linear model has been widely used in association mapping, taking the population structures and pairwise kinship patterns into consideration. In this study, a mass cross population of orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides) was examined. These candidate genes were found to harbor low nucleotide diversity (θw from 0.00154 to 0.00388) and linkage disequilibrium levels (delay of 50% within 2 kbp). Association mapping was employed, and two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (KR269823.1:g.475A>C and KR269823.1:g.2143T>C) were found to be associated with growth (false discovery rate Q < 0.05), explaining 9.0%-17.0% of the phenotypic variance. The association of KR269823.1:g.2143T>C was also found via haplotype-based association (p < 0.05). The identified associations offer new insights into gene functions, and the associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may be used for breeding purposes.
Keywords: GHRH; PGM; association analysis; growth; orange-spotted grouper.