Background: One objective of this study was to identify putative quantitative trait loci (QTL) that affect indicator phenotypes for growth, nitrogen, and carbon metabolism in muscle, liver, and adipose tissue, and for feed efficiency. Another objective was to perform an RNAseq analysis (184 fish from all families), to identify genes that are associated with carbon and nitrogen metabolism in the liver. The material consisted of a family experiment that was performed in freshwater and included 2281 individuals from 23 full-sib families. During the 12-day feed conversion test, families were randomly allocated to family tanks (50 fish per tank and 2 tanks per family) and fed a fishmeal-based diet labeled with the stable isotopes 15N and 13C at inclusion levels of 2 and 1%, respectively.
Results: Using a linear mixed-model algorithm, a QTL for pre-smolt growth was identified on chromosome 9 and a QTL for carbon metabolism in the liver was identified on chromosome 12 that was closely related to feed conversion ratio on a tank level. For the indicators of feed efficiency traits that were derived from the stable isotope ratios (15N and 13C) of muscle tissue and growth, no convincing QTL was detected, which suggests that these traits are polygenic. The transcriptomic analysis showed that high carbon and nitrogen metabolism was associated with individuals that convert protein from the feed more efficiently, primarily due to higher expression of the proteasome, lipid, and carbon metabolic pathways in liver. In addition, we identified seven transcription factors that were associated with carbon and nitrogen metabolism and located in the identified QTL regions.
Conclusions: Analyses revealed one QTL associated with pre-smolt growth and one QTL for carbon metabolism in the liver. Both of these traits are associated with feed efficiency. However, more accurate mapping of the putative QTL will require a more diverse family material. In this experiment, fish that have a high carbon and nitrogen metabolism in the liver converted protein from the feed more efficiently, potentially because of a higher expression of the proteasome, lipid, and carbon metabolic pathways in liver. Within the QTL regions, we detected seven transcription factors that were associated with carbon and nitrogen metabolism.