LiceRESIST: Unravelling genetic mechanisms underlying sea lice resistance in salmonid fishes

Funding source:
Project no:
Main Objective:
August 2020 – July 2023
Sigbjørn Lien
HAVBRUK2, The Research Council of Norway
12 mill NOK
Characterize causative genomic differences underlying differences in sea lice susceptibility among seven salmonid species, including by functional annotation of the genomic response to sea lice attack, thereby building a functional genetic understanding of host response and resistance mechanisms.








Sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) is the single greatest biological threat to the development of sustainable salmonid farming. Despite extensive international research efforts, our understanding of the functional genetic basis for host immune responses to sea lice infestations in Atlantic salmon, the main farmed species in Norway, remains unclear, largely due to the complex genetic architecture of the trait. By comparing the functional genomic changes occurring in response to sea lice attack in several salmonid species exhibiting diversity in resistance, LiceRESIST will (i) reveal novel functional mechanisms underlying immunity that have evolved in independent lineages, and (ii) facilitate the identification of key causative genetic variants responsible for lineage-specific resistance to lice burden. Our approach, combining comparative and functional genomics with CRISPR/Cas gene editing for discovery and validation of functional differences, will create opportunities to devise novel therapeutics to combat the sea lice threat. Given the pressing nature of the sea lice problem for aquaculture, in terms of economic losses, animal welfare concerns, and the threat to wild salmon, generating such advanced knowledge as a basis for improved lice management is both urgently required and in full alignment with the vision of the HAVBRUK2 program.


Outcomes and impacts

Sea lice infestation threatens salmon production in multiple nations including Norway, creates animal welfare concerns and has far-reaching negative environmental impacts. LiceRESIST aims to deliver a step-change improvement in genome functional annotation for multiple salmonid species, improving our ability to predict sea lice resistance from genomic data, and generating innovative tools that can be used in therapeutics to combat sea lice. The public availability of functional annotation datasets will also support innovation in other biotechnology sectors (considered targets for impact beyond end-users of genetics data), which should translate into aquaculture practice to enhance production sustainability in the long-term. Data produced in the project aligns strongly with ongoing collaborative initiatives including partners on the proposal, which aim elucidate the functional basis of commercial traits in aquaculture, so will have value beyond the scope this investigation.


CIGENE researchers involved: Sigbjørn Lien, Matthew Kent, Simen Sandve, Nicola Barson, Torfinn Nome


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