Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Frontiers in Zoology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research

Phasing of muscle gene expression with fasting-induced recovery growth in Atlantic salmon

Neil I Bower1, Richard G Taylor2 and Ian A Johnston1*

Author Affiliations

1 Gatty Marine Laboratory, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, UK

2 EWOS Innovation, 4335 Dirdal, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

Frontiers in Zoology 2009, 6:18  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-6-18

Published: 24 August 2009



Many fish species experience long periods of fasting in nature often associated with seasonal reductions in water temperature and prey availability or spawning migrations. During periods of nutrient restriction, changes in metabolism occur to provide cellular energy via catabolic processes. Muscle is particularly affected by prolonged fasting as myofibrillar proteins act as a major energy source. To investigate the mechanisms of metabolic reorganisation with fasting and refeeding in a saltwater stage of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) we analysed the expression of genes involved in myogenesis, growth signalling, lipid biosynthesis and myofibrillar protein degradation and synthesis pathways using qPCR.


Hierarchical clustering of gene expression data revealed three clusters. The first cluster comprised genes involved in lipid metabolism and triacylglycerol synthesis (ALDOB, DGAT1 and LPL) which had peak expression 3-14d after refeeding. The second cluster comprised ADIPOQ, MLC2, IGF-I and TALDO1, with peak expression 14-32d after refeeding. Cluster III contained genes strongly down regulated as an initial response to feeding and included the ubiquitin ligases MuRF1 and MAFbx, myogenic regulatory factors and some metabolic genes.


Early responses to refeeding in fasted salmon included the synthesis of triacylglycerols and activation of the adipogenic differentiation program. Inhibition of MuRF1 and MAFbx respectively may result in decreased degradation and concomitant increased production of myofibrillar proteins. Both of these processes preceded any increase in expression of myogenic regulatory factors and IGF-I. These responses could be a necessary strategy for an animal adapted to long periods of food deprivation whereby energy reserves are replenished prior to the resumption of myogenesis.