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Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation
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Atlantic salmon expressing transgenic growth hormone experienced numerous changes to their cardiorespiratory system.

Manipulated Organism: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Inserted Transgenes: Growth hormone gene from chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Gene expression was controlled using the antifreeze protein promoter from ocean pout (Zoarces americanus).

Goal of These Studies: Compare the growth and physiology of the transgenic salmon to non-GM salmon from the same stock.

Results of These Studies:
  • The transgenic fish gained weight 2-3 times more quickly but had a lower condition factor, meaning they were lighter than (older) non-GM fish of comparable length.

  • The transgenic fish developed into smolt (which in the wild precedes migration to the ocean) within their first year of life, whereas the non-GM fish required two years to make this transition.

  • The transgenic fish consumed oxygen at a higher rate than size-matched non-GM fish. Stevens et al. (1998) measured a 70% increase in respiration for one strain, while Deitch et al. (2006) measured a 20% increase for a different strain.

  • The GM fish had elevated levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline in their blood (70% higher).

  • The hearts of the GM fish were 20% larger than size-matched non-GM fish, and their resting heart rate was 84 beats per minute (GM) versus 73 beats per minute (non-GM).

Sources: Stevens, E. D., A. Sutterlin, and T. Cook (1998). "Respiratory Metabolism and Swimming Performance in Growth Hormone Transgenic Atlantic Salmon," Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences vol. 55, pp. 2028-35.

Deitch, E. J., G. L. Fletcher, L. H. Petersen et al. (2006). "Cardiorespiratory Modifications, and Limitations, in Post-Smolt Growth Hormone Transgenic Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar," Journal of Experimental Biology vol. 209, pp. 1310-25.

Author Affiliations: University of Guelph, Canada; AquaBounty Farms, Canada; Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

Funding: National Research Council of Canada; AquaBounty.

Product Status: As of 2009, this product is being reviewed by the FDA for commercial use in the U.S.

Copyright 2009 The Nature Institute.

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