Nutritional control of gene expression, larval development and physiology in fish
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The first project focused on studying the larval development of cobia, a fish species highly suitable for aquaculture for which the industry is nascent. I described the time-course of development of external sensory organs, gut morphology and relevant digestive enzymes under controlled conditions using electron microscopy, histology and spectrophotometric assays. The developmental sequence of larval cobia could be separated in two phases, with a transition period between 12 and 14 days post hatch (dph). This transition is characterized by the formation of the intestinal loop, the establishment of basic cranial neuromast configuration, leading to the initiation of the onset of pancreatic enzymes and the increase of growth rate. In addition, the effects of dietary taurine supplementation and incorporation of mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) into live feeds on cobia larvae development was examined. Fish fed supplementary MOS did not grow faster but displayed higher microvilli length and density. In addition, MOS-fed fish were more resistant to salinity stress. The dietary supplementation of taurine resulted in a dramatic increase in survival, growth and development rates, and enzymatic activities.
The second project aimed at refining cobia juvenile nutrition, assessing fish meal and fish oil replacements. Novel sources, including soy protein and oil, were investigated with and without amino acid and MOS supplementations, yielding promising results. Indeed, both fish meal and fish oil were replaced completely and successfully in feeds for juvenile cobia. In addition, novel ingredients (e.g. marine algae meals and soy protein concentrate) were identified to effectively achieve such replacement.
The third and last project dealt with nutrient-gene interactions, specifically centering attention on immunostimulants for which the underlying mechanisms of action remain poorly characterized. Here, dietary MOS, nucleotides and selenomethionine (Se-met) were offered to zebrafish whose transcriptome was analyzed by microarray. The immune system, humoral or cellular, innate or adaptive, exhibited different patterns of response according to the immunostimulating nutrient used. In addition, various genes involved in cell cycle and cytokinesis were concomitantly expressed. An intriguing observation related to the insulinomimetic effect of Se-met. In other words, Se-met impacted pathways normally regulated by insulin, such as the MAPK and PI3K pathways. Some Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF) and IGF bindgin proteins were up-regulated. Additional research is however necessary prior to advocating for the use of these additives, in order to further investigate their respective pros and cons.
- Doctoral Dissertations