Cardiorespiratory modifications, and limitations, in post-smolt growth hormone transgenic Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. Academic Article uri icon


  • In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in how growth hormone (GH) transgenesis affects fish physiology. However, the results of these studies are often difficult to interpret because the transgenic and non-transgenic fish had very different environmental/rearing histories. This study used a stable line of size-matched GH Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) that were reared in a shared tank with controls (at 10 degrees C, for approximately 9 months) to perform a comprehensive examination of the cardiorespiratory physiology of GH transgenic salmon, and serves as a novel test of the theory of symmorphosis. The GH transgenic salmon had a 3.6x faster growth rate, and 21 and 25% higher values for mass-specific routine and standard oxygen consumption (M(O(2))), respectively. However, there was no concurrent increase in their maximum M(O(2)), which resulted in them having an 18% lower metabolic scope and a 9% reduction in critical swimming speed. This decreased metabolic capacity/performance was surprising given that the transgenics had a 29% larger heart with an 18% greater mass-specific maximum in situ cardiac output, a 14% greater post-stress blood haemoglobin concentration, 5-10% higher red muscle and heart aerobic enzyme (citrate synthase or cytochrome oxidase) activities, and twofold higher resting and 1.7x higher post-stress, catecholamine levels. However, gill surface area was the only cardiorespiratory parameter that was not enhanced, and our data suggest that gill oxygen transfer may have been limiting. Overall, this research: (1) shows that there are significant metabolic costs associated with GH transgenesis in this line of Atlantic salmon; (2) provides the first direct evidence that cardiac function is enhanced by GH transgenesis; (3) shows that a universal upregulation of post-smolt (adult) GH transgenic salmon cardiorespiratory physiology, as suggested by symmorphosis, does not occur; and (4) supports the idea that whereas differences in arterial oxygen transport (i.e. cardiac output and blood oxygen carrying capacity) are important determinants of inter-specific differences in aerobicity, diffusion-limited processes must be enhanced to achieve substantial intra-specific improvements in metabolic and swimming performance.

published proceedings

  • J Exp Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Deitch, E. J., Fletcher, G. L., Petersen, L. H., Costa, I., Shears, M. A., Driedzic, W. R., & Gamperl, A. K.

citation count

  • 54

complete list of authors

  • Deitch, EJ||Fletcher, GL||Petersen, LH||Costa, IASF||Shears, MA||Driedzic, WR||Gamperl, AK

publication date

  • April 2006