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Molecular Genetics Lab at Pacific Biological Station

The Molecular Genetics Laboratory (MGL) provides genetics advice relating to conservation and management of fish and shellfish species in Canada. Genetic diversity within populations and genetic relationships among populations are evaluated through surveys of microsatellites, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), major histocompatibility complex (MHC) variation, and gene expression. Applications include determination of population structure and appropriate assessment and management units, identification of stock compositions in mixed-stock fisheries, forensics, evaluation of hatchery and aquaculture broodstocks, identification of prey items in marine mammal diets, determination of evolutionary relationships in teleost fish, and application of biomarkers to identify upregulation and downregulation of specific gene complexes.

The MGL is also involved in research on adaptive immunity in teleost fishes. To elucidate the role of selection on the maintenance of diversity in the MHC, the laboratory has compiled (in salmon) the largest population-level databases on adaptive MHC variation available for any species. Salmonid MHC genes have also been found to be associated with resistance to IHN. The MGL has recently begun a research program on gene expression analysis, using both a quantitative RT-PCR approach to assess expression of single genes, and microarray analysis to assess genome-wide changes in gene expression. This work has initially focussed on genes involved in immunity, but will in the future focus on genome-wide expression profiling of salmon exposed to a variety of environmental purturbations to gain a better understanding of the physiological response of salmon to changes in their environment.

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