The Science Behind Genetically Engineered Salmon

By John McQuaid, "How to Make a Salmon," March/April 2011

How AquAdvantage transgenic salmon is made.

To make the AquAdvantage transgenic salmon, scientists select two sequences of DNA—one from a Pacific chinook salmon, the other from an eel-like fish called the ocean pout, which has antifreeze proteins in its blood that help it live in near-freezing waters. The genes are chemically knit together and injected into fertilized Atlantic salmon eggs, some of which incorporate them into their genetic makeup. But that’s only the beginning: in additional steps, eggs from those transgenic fish are isolated and biochemically “tricked” into developing without fertilization, a procedure known as “gynogenesis.” The resulting all-female fish—still carrying the new genes—are then treated with a hormone that turns them into males, and their sperm is used to fertilize ordinary salmon eggs. It’s these offspring that are intended for the dinner plate.

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