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Keywords:

  • Atlantic salmon;
  • imprinting;
  • migration;
  • olfactory receptors

Abstract

It has been hypothesized that salmonids use olfactory cues to return to their natal rivers and streams. However, the key components of the molecular pathway involved in imprinting and homing are still unknown. If odorants are involved in salmon homing migration, then olfactory receptors should play a critical role in the dissipation of information from the environment to the fish. Therefore, we examined the expression profiles of a suite of genes encoding olfactory receptors and other olfactory-related genes in the olfactory rosettes of different life stages in two anadromous and one non-anadromous wild Atlantic salmon populations from Newfoundland, Canada. We identified seven differentially expressed OlfC genes in juvenile anadromous salmon compared to returning adults in both populations of anadromous Atlantic salmon. The salmon from the Campbellton River had an additional 10 genes that were differentially expressed in juveniles compared to returning adults. There was no statistically significant difference in gene expression of any of the genes in the non-anadromous population (P < 0.01). The function of the OlfC gene products is not clear, but they are predicted to be amino acid receptors. Other studies have suggested that salmon use amino acids for imprinting and homing. This study, the first to examine the expression of olfactory-related genes in wild North American Atlantic salmon, has identified seven OlfC genes that may be involved in the imprinting and homeward migration of anadromous Atlantic salmon.