James Cook University researchers have been part of the first-ever successful effort to map the genome of an iconic Australian seafood species – that of the Australian black tiger prawn – which could lead to a stock in the future. larger and more disease-resistant breeding stock.
Dean Jerry, professor of aquaculture at JCU, said the research came from the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Advanced Breeding, a collaboration between JCU, the Australian Genome Research Facility (AGRF), the University of Sydney, CSIRO and Seafarms Group. The partnership aimed to improve the productivity and efficiency of shrimp farming through the use of genetic selection.
“The idea was to improve the ability of Australian prawn farmers to apply selective breeding practices to produce larger, healthier farmed prawns. As part of this project, we set out to sequence the genome of the black tiger prawn. The information in the genome is important for us to know, because it essentially contains the blueprint that determines the composition and behavior of the prawn,” said Professor Jerry.
He said one of the benefits of having this genome is that it can contribute significantly to selective breeding efforts in shrimp, similar to what has happened with livestock and cultured species in the past. over the last few thousand years.
“The shrimp is a tiny animal, but its genome is almost as big as a human’s, and its structure is much more complicated,” Professor Jerry said.
AGRF’s director of bioinformatics, Dr Kenneth Chan, said the genetic mapping process to reconstruct the black tiger prawn genome was fiendishly tricky.
“Imagine the task of assembling a 1.9 billion piece double-sided jigsaw puzzle with no borders, long repeating overlapping sections, millions of missing pieces, multiple pieces that can fit in one place, no pictures on the box to follow , and maybe a lot of pieces of another unrelated puzzle,” Dr Chan said.
The scientists also discovered something very unusual about the way the tiger prawn fights off viral infections.
CSIRO Principal Investigator Dr Nick Wade explained that the viral elements of the genome that help fight viral infections (known as the endogenous viral element or EVE) are truly unique in Australian tiger prawn.
“No EVE found in any other animal looks like this,” Dr. Wade said.
“The discovery of this EVE allows for further research into how shrimp handle virus infections and perhaps new therapies that can be applied to make shrimp more resistant to viral disease,” he said. he declares.
Professor Jerry said the benefits of genome mapping will come across a range of complementary areas.
“It radically changes the landscape of shrimp research, enabling a range of other functional biological studies, including how to target particular genes for better breeding results, to genome engineering of accuracy,” Professor Jerry said.