Auburn University researchers have first mapped the genome of blue catfish

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A research team from Auburn University from the College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture recently became the first to map a high-quality genome assembly of the blue catfish.

The genome published in the journal GigaScienceAnd the Essential for genetic improvement using genetic editing or genome-assisted selection and will aid in the genetic improvement of better strains of catfish for the multimillion dollar catfish farming industry..

Catfish farming is the largest aquaculture industry in the United States, accounting for about 70% of the country’s total aquaculture production. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas account for the vast majority of total freshwater catfish production in the United States, with Alabama second only to Mississippi. The primary fish used for aquaculture purposes is the hybrid fish produced by breeding male blue catfish with female channel catfish.

“Hybrid catfish is superior in growth and disease resistance,” said Xu Wang, associate professor of comparative genomics in animal health in the Department of Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and assistant faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, one of the project leaders.

“Faster growth means more profits. Originally, farmed fish was channel catfish, but three major bacterial pathogens have resulted in a 40% loss in production and more than $100 million in annual economic damage in the US industry alone. The hybrid mix of Blue catfish and channelfish improve disease resistance and halve the mortality rate.”

However, Wang says there is an urgent need for more genetic optimization using genetic approaches.

The channel catfish genome was mapped in 2016 by the John Liu laboratory in Auburn [now at Syracuse University]., but the blue catfish genome was not available until we published it.” “Our high-quality blue catfish genome meets urgent needs to achieve the long-term goal of improving growth, forage use, stress and disease resistance, and reproduction.”

Wang served as the first author of GigaScience Paper, assisted by Haolong Wang (unrelated), a biomedical science doctoral student supported by the Auburn Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship and Dean’s Fellowship of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The veterinary researchers collaborated closely with a team from the College of Agriculture, College of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences led by Professor Rex Dunham, an internationally recognized authority on genetic improvement and gene editing for catfish.

“This is a fantastic step forward,” Dunham said of mapping the blue catfish genome. “There have been many genetic improvement projects related to gene transfer and gene editing that would not have been possible for blue catfish without it. As a result, we have not been able to do parallel work with what we do with catfish. Because channel and blue cross hybrids are the best genetic species to make a fish catfish, it also puts limitations on what we can do with these tools to improve the hybrid.

That barrier is now gone. The availability of the blue catfish genome available opens a huge box of markers that we can use in other approaches, such as marker-assisted selection, and also gives us many tools to distinguish and trace the different genetic types of blue catfish. Thanks to this research, we are much less limited than before. ”

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