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Mechanical shock during egg de-adhesion and post-ovulatory ageing contribute to spontaneous autopolyploidy in white sturgeon culture (Acipenser transmontanus)


Spontaneous autopolyploidy, a 1.5x increase in genome size resulting from second polar body retention after fertilization, has been documented in cultured sturgeons, with the proportion of spontaneous autopolyploid progeny ranging widely among maternal families. Sturgeon farms wish to reduce the number of spontaneous autopolyploids because their progeny, when crossed with a normal ploidy parent, exhibit intermediate ploidies, resulting in reproductive abnormalities. However, there is limited knowledge of the causes of the second polar body retention in sturgeon culture. In this study, we report the results of experiments performed from 2015 to 2019 aimed at identifying the sources of spontaneous autopolyploidy in white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) culture. In collaboration with several sturgeon farms, we tested whether post-ovulatory ageing, mechanical shock during egg de-adhesion, and the combined effects of both factors increased spontaneous autopolyploidy. To test the effect of post-ovulatory ageing, eggs were collected from females and either fertilized at the industry normative time (2–5 h post-oviposition) or stored in ovarian fluid at 15 °C for 6–8 h before fertilization. To test the effect of mechanical shock, eggs were collected, fertilized 2–5 h post-oviposition and exposed to either gentle or vigorous mixing during the 60 min de-adhesion treatment. Results from this work reveal that post-ovulatory ageing does increase the incidence of spontaneous autopolyploidy in some females, but overall the proportions produced were low (range 0–15%). Proportions of spontaneous autopolyploids in eggs exposed to vigorous mixing were also variable (1–92%) but significantly higher in 75% of the females when compared to their respective controls or gentle mixing treatments, indicating that mechanical shock during egg de-adhesion is likely the primary cause of spontaneous autopolyploidy. To our knowledge this is the first study to document mechanical shock to eggs during de-adhesion as a cause of abnormal ploidy in cultured fishes. We observed high variability in egg quality among females and a significant relationship between embryo mortality and the incidence of spontaneous autopolyploidy when eggs were exposed to mechanical shock. Repeated spawning of a female that produced a high proportion of spontaneous autopolyploids provided preliminary evidence that genetic background may influence the likelihood that a female's eggs will be prone to second polar body retention when subjected to mechanical shock. Although spontaneous autopolyploidy in sturgeon culture will likely never be eliminated entirely, we provide practical recommendations to sturgeon producers to reduce its incidence in a production setting.

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