For salmon aquaculture, one of the most critical phase is the parr-smolt transformation. Studies around this process have mainly focused on physiological changes and the Na+/K+-ATPase activity during the osmoregulatory activity. However, understanding how the salmon genome regulates the parr-smolt transformation, specifically the molecular mechanisms involved, remains uncovered. This study aimed to explore the transcriptional modulation of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), as key molecular regulators, during the freshwater (FW) to seawater (SW) transfer in Atlantic salmon. Transcriptome sequencing was performed from gill samples of Atlantic salmon adapted from FW to SW through gradual salinity changes from 0 to 30 PSU. The results showed that most transcripts differently modulated were downregulated in all salinity conditions. Relevant biological processes were associated with growth, collagen formation, immune response, metabolism, and heme transport. Notably, 2864 putative lncRNAs were identified in Atlantic salmon gills differently expressed during fish smoltification. The highest number of lncRNAs differently modulated was observed at 30 PSU. Correlation expression analysis suggests putative regulatory roles of lncRNAs with smoltification-related genes. Herein, co-localization of Na+/K+-ATPase, growth hormone receptor, and thyroid hormone receptor genes with lncRNAs differentially expressed suggest putative regulatory mechanisms in the Atlantic salmon genome. The lncRNAs can be used as novel biomarkers for the fish smoltification process. Here, the lncRNA_145326 and lncRNA_18762 are putatively related to the parr-smolt transfer in Atlantic salmon. This study is the first description of lncRNAs with putative regulatory roles in Atlantic salmon during the SW adaptation.
Keywords: Atlantic salmon; RNA-seq; Smoltification; Transcriptome; lncRNA.