Salmon as model organism for obesity


Start 1. January 2011
End 31. December 2012
Funded by The Research Council of Norway - FRIPRO
In collaboration Oxford university, UK (Prof. Keith Frayn) and University of Barcelona, Spain (Prof. Isabel Navarro)

Excessive fat deposition, bone deformities, and inflammatory diseases are important problems faced by the intensive aquaculture industries today. Although not known for fish, these problems may be linked to nutritional programming at early life stages.

The title of this project is "Nutritional Programming of Adipose Tissue Functions; The use of Atlantic salmon as a model organism for obesity".


Most species studied have high number of unspecialised mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that have the potential to develop into many different cell types at early life stage. There are clear indications from human studies that nutrition during early foetal development influences the lineage determination of MSCs towards that of fat cells (adipocytes), bone cells (osteoblast) and muscle cells (myocytes).

In the PhD work of Marijana Todorcevic we showed, for the first time, that fish stem cell differentiation towards adipocytes is influenced by different fatty acids (FAs). We further characterised the development of MSCs to mature adipocytes by transcriptome analyses. These studies further showed that salmon adipogenesis is regulated more or less in the same way as in humans.

Our results also showed that salmon adipocytes express genes coding for inflammatory cytokines, supporting the idea that the adipocytes may be involved in inflammatory responses in the fish.

Opportunities in this project:

  • for Nofima to continue the pioneer work on adipose development in fish
  • to further increase the knowledge on the connection between early dietary programming, adipose- and bone tissue development and inflammatory disease
  • to collaborate with Oxford University, which is one of the leading institutes within human obesity research today
  • to collaborate with University in Barcelona which is a leading institute in the field of endocrinology and adipose tissue development in fish