Expression of a Novel Piscine Growth Hormone Gene Results in Growth Enhancement in Transgenic Tilapia (Oreochromis Niloticus)
Several lines of transgenic G1 and G2 tilapia fish (Oreochromis niloticus) have been produced following egg injection with gene constructs carrying growth hormone coding sequences of fish origin. Using a construct in which an ocean pout antifreeze promoter drives a chinook salmon growth hormone gene, dramatic growth enhancement has been demonstrated, in which the mean weight of the 7 month old G2 transgenic fish is more than three fold that of their non transgenic siblings. Somewhat surprisingly G1 fish transgenic for a construct consisting of a sockeye salmon metallothionein promoter spliced to a sockeye salmon growth hormone gene exhibited no growth enhancement, although salmon transgenic for this construct do show greatly enhanced growth. The growth enhanced transgenic lines were also strongly positive in a radio-immuno assay for the specific hormone in their serum, whereas the non growth enhanced lines were negative. Attempts to induce expression from the metallo thionein promoter by exposing fish to increased levels of zinc were also unsuccessful.
Homozygous transgenic fish have been produced from the ocean pout antifreeze/chinook salmon GH construct and preliminary trials suggest that their growth performance is similar to that of the hemizygous transgenics. No abnormalities were apparent in the growth enhanced fish, although minor changes to skull shape and reduced fertility were noted in some fish. There is also preliminary evidence for improved food conversion ratios when growth enhanced transgenic tilapia are compared to their non-transgenic siblings.
The long term objective of this study is to produce lines of tilapia which are both growth enhanced and sterile, so offering improved strains of this important food fish for aquaculture.
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