Modern technologies may improve fish production and quality and, at the same time, reduce environmental impact with benefits on the public perception of the industry. To be economically profitable, these modern technologies request an increase of rearing density that, however, could affect fish welfare. With the aim to search for molecular biomarkers to describe fish welfare, we have recently compared gene expression of sea bass farmed at different population densities by differential display obtaining six bands differentially expressed. In this paper, we have cloned the mRNA corresponding to one of those differentially expressed bands obtaining a 3860-bp sequence with an ORF of 2664 bp. Its virtual translation originated a 887-aa polypeptide that, by comparison with the other sequences available in the public data bases, resulted to be the 3-hydroxil-3-methyl-glutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR). In sea bass, as for the other species, the N- and C-terminus portions are the most conserved and are linked by an hydrophilic region that appears to be quite variable. Due to its role in the synthesis of cholesterol, HMGCR mRNA could be a good biomarker for detecting fish welfare. For this reason, we also followed, by real-time PCR, its expression after crowding stress comparing it with mRNA levels of HSP 70 and 90: HMGCR mRNA resulted highly expressed in the fishes farmed at 100 kg/m(3).
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