Identification of molecular markers in pectoral fin to predict artificial maturation of female European eels (Anguilla anguilla)

Ron P. Dirks, Erik Burgerhout, Sebastiaan A. Brittijn, Danielle L. de Wijze, Hulya Ozupek, Nynke Tuinhof-Koelma, Yuki Minegishi, Susanne A. Jong-Raadsen, Herman P. Spaink, Guido E.E.J.M. van den Thillart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The European eel is a critically endangered species that cannot be reproduced in captivity yet. Artificial maturation of female European eels can be achieved via a laborious and expensive procedure, including weekly injections with pituitary extracts for up to 6. months. The success rate is highly variable and a minimally invasive method for early selection of responsive eels would prevent the unnecessary and lengthy treatment of non-responding individuals. Since sexual maturation of European eels is accompanied by morphological changes of the pectoral fin, we examined whether fin could be used to monitor the response to the hormone treatment. Farmed eels were subjected to weekly injections with pituitary extracts and representative groups were sampled at 0 and 14-18. weeks of hormone treatment. Responders and non-responders were identified based on the gonado-somatic index. Transcriptomes of pectoral fin samples obtained at the start and end of the trial were mapped using Illumina RNAseq. Responders showed 384 and non-responders only 54 differentially expressed genes. Highly stringent selection based on minimum expression levels and fold-changes and a manual re-annotation round yielded 23 up-regulated and 21 down-regulated maturation marker genes. The up-regulated markers belong to five categories: proteases, skin/mucus structural proteins, steroid hormone signaling, tyrosine/dopamine metabolism and lipid metabolism. The down-regulated markers are either blood markers or lectin-related genes. In conclusion, pectoral fin transcriptomes are a rich source of indicator markers for monitoring hormone induced sexual maturation of female European eels. In addition, these markers provide important new insight into several fundamental processes in eel biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-276
Number of pages10
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Aug 1


  • Artificial maturation
  • European eel
  • Minimally invasive
  • Pectoral fin
  • Predictive markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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