Farmed Atlantic salmon are one of the most economically significant global aquaculture products. Early sexual maturation of farmed males represents a significant challenge to this industry and has been linked with the vgll3 genotype. However, tools to aid research of this topic, such as all-male and clonal fish, are still lacking. The present 6-year study examined if all-male production is possible in Atlantic salmon, a species with heteromorphic sex chromosomes (males being XY, females XX), and if all-male fish can be applied to further explore the vgll3 contribution on the likelihood of early maturation.
Estrogen treatment of mixed sex yolk sac larvae gave rise to one sexually mature hermaphrodite with a male genotype (XY) that was used to produce both self-fertilized offspring and androgenetic double haploid (dh) offspring following egg activation with UV treated sperm and pressure shock to block the first mitotic division. There were YY supermales among both offspring types, which were crossed with dh females. Between 1 and 8% of the putative all-male offspring from the eight crosses with self-fertilized supermales were found to have ovaries, and 95% of these phenotypic females were also genetically female. None of the offspring from the one dh supermale cross had ovaries. When assessing the general contribution of the vgll3 locus on the likelihood of early post-smolt sexual maturation (jacking) in the all-male populations we found individuals that were homozygous for the early maturing genotype (97%) were more likely to enter puberty than individuals that were homozygous for the late maturing genotype (26%). However, the likelihood of jacking within individuals with an early/late heterozygous genotype was higher when the early allele came from the dam (94%) compared to the sire (45%).
The present results show that supermale Atlantic salmon are viable and fertile and can be used as a research tool to study important aspects of sexual maturation, such as to further explore the sex dependent parental genetic contribution to age at puberty in Atlantic salmon. In addition, we report the production of viable double haploid supermale fish.