The swimbladder is an internal gas-filled organ in teleosts. Its major function is to regulate buoyancy. The swimbladder exhibits great variation in size, shape, and number of compartments or chambers among teleosts. However, genomic control of swimbladder variation is unknown. Channel catfish ( Ictalurus punctatus), blue catfish ( Ictalurus furcatus), and their F1 hybrids of female channel catfish × male blue catfish (C × B hybrid catfish) provide a good model in which to investigate the swimbladder morphology, because channel catfish possess a single-chambered swimbladder, whereas blue catfish possess a bichambered swimbladder; C × B hybrid catfish possess a bichambered swimbladder but with a significantly reduced posterior chamber. Here we determined the transcriptional profiles of swimbladder from channel catfish, blue catfish, and C × B hybrid catfish. We examined their transcriptomes at both the fingerling and adult stages. Through comparative transcriptome analysis, ~4,000 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified. Among these DEGs, members of the Wnt signaling pathway ( wnt1, wnt2, nfatc1, rac2), Hedgehog signaling pathway ( shh), and growth factors ( fgf10, igf-1) were identified. As these genes were known to be important for branching morphogenesis of mammalian lung and of mammary glands, their association with budding of the posterior chamber primordium and progressive development of bichambered swimbladder in fish suggest that these branching morphogenesis-related genes and their functions in branching are evolutionarily conserved across a broad spectrum of species.
Keywords: branching morphogenesis; catfish; fish; swimbladder; transcriptome.