Rib and vertebral deformities in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) explained by a dominant-mutation mechanism

Hannes Gislason, Helena Karstensen, Debes Christiansen, Kirsti Hjelde, Synnøve Helland, Grete Bæverfjord

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We suggest and investigate a hypothesis of a dominant-mutation mechanism as a possible cause for rib and vertebral deformities found in farmed rainbow trout. We report on an X-ray characterization and a genetic study of a sample of 45 individuals from a rainbow trout broodstock population in the Faroe Islands, which was found to be affected by externally visible rib deformities. 41 fish were from 36 progeny families of 23 sires and 33 dams and 4 fish were of unknown family origin. These fish were from a family-based selection program, year-class 2005, produced from 144 females and 72 males, and the total number of families was 252. In the X-ray characterization both rib deformities and vertebral deformities were found. Only 8 fish were found to be unaffected: 15 fish had both rib and vertebral deformities, 20 fish had only rib deformities and 2 fish had only vertebral deformities. The abnormal ribs were observed as anomalously short and thin bones located inside the abdominal wall. Some had their ends pointing towards the skin, and in the most serious cases, they were perforating the skin. The numbers of rib and vertebral deformities in each individual were assigned rib and vertebral deformity scores. We estimate the proportions in year-class 2005 of deformed fish, of fish with rib deformities and of fish with vertebral deformities, to be 0.82±0.11, 0.78±0.12 and 0.38±0.14, respectively. The 45 individuals were genotyped at nine microsatellite marker loci to investigate potential inbreeding problems. The actual and effective numbers of alleles, na=5.8 and ne=4.2, the heterozygosity, Ho=0.718, and the inbreeding coefficient, Fis=0.034, are similar to the corresponding quantities for Danish strains. The heterozygosity and the inbreeding coefficient indicate a low inbreeding level. A phylogenetic tree and pairwise-relatedness estimates were also constructed from the genotype information and compared with the information from the family-based selection program for rainbow trout. We investigate the dominant-mutation hypothesis and show that genotype counts inferred from the deformity scores are consistent with Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. From this model, we predict phenotypic segregation ratios of the deformity traits, which are in close agreement with the experimental observations. Finally, we discuss both environmental and genetic causes and conclude in favor of the dominant-mutation mechanism as the most likely cause of the observed deformities. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)86-95
Number of pages10
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Deformities
  • Dominant mutations
  • Intermuscular bones
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss
  • Rainbow trout

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