Molecular biomarkers for sperm quality in an economically important fish: Blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus

Hana N. Hess, Marie E. Strader, Helen R. Montague, Timothy J. Bruce, Gavin Aguilar, Sune Sørensen, Laura E. Jenkins, Luke A. Roy, Rex A. Dunham, Ian A.E. Butts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Intraspecies variability in sperm quality is common among aquaculture species, thus necessitating an urgent need to establish reliable molecular biomarkers to screen for males with high-quality sperm. The channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) ♀ × blue catfish (I. furcatus) ♂ hybrid accounts for >50% of United States catfish production. Blue catfish sperm cannot be collected using non-lethal methods, and thus, males must be sacrificed to determine reproductive quality. To establish gene expression biomarkers of sperm quality, we characterized important sperm traits, ranked blue catfish males based on the curvilinear velocity of their sperm, and sequenced testicular tissue for mRNAs and sRNAs. Of the 43 males characterized, testicular tissue from 4 individuals with low-velocity (155.70 mm/s ± 1.49 SD) and 4 with high-velocity (205.01 mm/s ± 4.63 SD) were chosen for sequencing. No differentially expressed sRNAs were detected between the two sperm performance groups. However, we identified two differentially expressed mRNA transcripts between the low-velocity and high-velocity groups, aqp3a and ly97.3, both upregulated in the high-velocity group compared to the low-velocity group. These molecular biomarkers of sperm quality in testicular tissue are linked to gamete quality and may be applied for more efficient catfish aquaculture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number740220
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Aquaculture
  • Assisted reproduction
  • Transcriptomics
  • Sperm quality
  • MiRNA


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