McGowan M, MacKenzie S, Steiropoulos N & Weidmann M (2021) Testing of NKA expression by mobile real time PCR is an efficient indicator of smoltification status of farmed Atlantic salmon. Aquaculture, 544, Art. No.: 737085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2021.737085
Assessment of seawater readiness of freshwater salmon smolts is a crucial husbandry step with economic implications in salmon aquaculture but current methods rely on delayed centralised enzymic activity measurement. The efficiency of a qRT-PCR assay for sodium potassium ATPase (NKA) α1a mRNA was tested in a 3-year study on 19 hatcheries across Scotland incorporating environmental factors such as temperature and metal contamination. The NKA qRT-PCR assay was transferred to a mobile laboratory and on-site testing was carried out at 3 hatchery sites. For the first two years standard enzymatic and gene expression assays had similar success rates in detecting smoltification (NKA activity 60%, qRT-PCR 57%). In the third year, all but one site were determined as sea water ready by qRT-PCR but only at 4 by enzymatic testing. On site testing with mobile qRT-PCR was successfully performed on four farm sites. Altogether, high sensitivity was shown for the in lab (98.9%, SE 0.24) and mobile (93.43%, SE 0.119) assays when tested using a quantitative RNA standard. Some indication for obscured smoltification assay results due to environmental increased heavy metal contamination was observed.
Our results prove it is possible to test a smoltification marker on site and provide results on the day of testing during the smolt period allowing for informed decisions on seawater transfer.
Sodium potassium ATPase; Smoltification; ATPase (NKA) α1a mRNA; Salmon; NKA activity
Aquaculture: Volume 544