Alteration in expression of atrogenes and IGF-1 induced by fasting in Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus juveniles

Document Type : Original Article


1 Faculdade de Ciências Agrárias e Veterinárias, Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), Jaboticabal, SP, 14884-900, Brazil

2 USDA-ARS, Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, 3059F National Fish Hatchery Rd, Hagerman, ID, 83332, USA

3 University of Idaho, Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, 3059F National Fish Hatchery Rd, Hagerman, ID, 83332, USA

4 Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), Instituto de Biociências, Botucatu, SP, 18618-000, Brazil



The growth rate of farmed fish is an important factor regarding aquaculture success. An understanding of the cellular events that occur in skeletal muscle when fish undergo periods of fasting and refeeding provides information useful in developing alternative feeding strategies for improving muscle growth in commercially cultivated species. To evaluate the effect of 1–3 weeks of fasting and 10 weeks of refeeding in Nile tilapia juveniles, we analyzed the growth performance and changes in muscle cellularity and the expression of the following growth and muscle related genes: MyoD, myogenin, IGF-1, IGF-1 receptor, MuRF-1, atrogin-1 and myostatin. Reduced body mass was observed in all three groups of fasted fish during their time off feed, and 10 weeks of refeeding resulted in partial compensatory growth of body mass. No differences in the frequency of white muscle fiber diameters were observed between fasted and fed control fish treatments. However, changes in gene expression induced by fasting and refeeding were found. IGF-1 receptor, ubiquitin ligases MuRF1 and atrogin-1 expression increased during the 1–3 weeks of fasting, while IGF-1 levels dropped significantly (P < 0.001) compared to the control treatment. Furthermore, myogenin mRNA level in fish submitted to 3 weeks of fasting was higher in comparison to the control treatment (P < 0.05). Overall, our results showed that 1–3 weeks of fasting can induce muscle atrophy activation in Nile tilapia juveniles, and 10 weeks of refeeding is enough to induce only partial compensatory growth.