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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research

Project Number: 8082-32000-005-00-D
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 9, 2009
End Date: Dec 8, 2014

Endemic and emerging diseases limit U.S. aquatic farm-animal production. This project focuses on improving fish health by selectively breeding rainbow trout for increased disease resistance and utilizing divergent fish phenotypes to understand host resistance and pathogen virulence mechanisms under laboratory and farm conditions. 1: Conduct selective breeding and determine, under field and laboratory conditions, whether rainbow trout bred for bacterial cold water disease resistance exhibit superior performance traits. • 1.a. Evaluate and selectively breed NCCCWA rainbow trout for increased disease resistance and quantify improvement due to selection. • 1.b. Compare improved and reference lines of NCCCWA rainbow trout under farm conditions. • 1.c. Develop genetic markers that are informative across research and commercial trout populations to enhance health traits. 2: Characterize virulence determinants involved in the emergence of vaccine-resistant Yersinia ruckeri strains and develop novel therapeutics to treat or prevent disease. • 2.a. Elucidate the genetic basis of the biotype 2 phenotype. • 2.b. Evaluate the role of flagellar secretion in the function of the traditional ERM immersion vaccine and vaccine failure. • 2.c. Develop novel phage therapeutics for control of ERM and BCWD. 3: Identify genes and non-genetic factors in rainbow trout critical to innate and acquired immunity. • 3.a. Determine if heritable differences in spleen structure and function account for the superior BCWD survival and clearance traits of resistant fish. • 3.b. Determine whether orally-delivered immunostimulants modulate the gut immune system and whether variation exists between resistant and susceptible lines of rainbow trout. • 3.c. Initiate development of a rainbow trout immune-pathway database that is integrated with pathogen genomic information.

Our approach incorporates a comprehensive and multidisciplinary strategy that combines selective breeding, functional genomics of pathogenic bacteria, development of genetic markers associated with health traits and immunological studies. In the first objective, we utilize conventional family-based selective breeding to increase bacterial cold water disease resistance and evaluate select and control fish performance in on-farm trials. In the second objective, we characterize indicators of virulence in emerging strains of vaccine-resistant Y. ruckeri using molecular and genomic approaches and develop novel therapeutics to treat or prevent bacterial disease. In the third objective, we identify genes and non-genetic factors in trout that are critical to expression of innate and acquired immune responses using molecular and immunological techniques. We will identify and measure mucosal immune system function and dietary immunomodulation of local immunity. The overall impact of this research is improved animal well-being, reduced antibiotic use and increased production efficiency.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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