EpiFish: Innovative Epigenetic Markers for Fish Domestication

Click here for the EPIFISH website at Nord Universitet

About the project

Domestication of plants and animals has been critical to expansion of the human population and emergence of modern society as we know it.  Remarkably, the number of domesticated fish species of commercial relevance is very limited, even if aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the world, accounting for almost 50% of the fish for human consumption worldwide.  In order to ensure the sustainability of the acquaculture industry it is critical to domesticate and selectively improve the major commercial fish species.

To date, the molecular basis of domestication is poorly understood and the genetic markers used in selective breeding of fish account only for a fraction of the observed phenotypic variation.

EPIFISH is a scientifically innovative and timely project that will address fish domestication and selection from a new perspective using a multidisciplinary approach.  The rapid pace of substantial phenotypic changes during adaptation to new environmental conditions in fish undergoing domestication raises the original hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms are involved in this process.  Thus, the overarching aim of EPIFISH is to ascertain the importance of epigenetics in fish domestication using the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) as model species.

The identification of epigenetic markers (DNA methylation marks and miRNA variants) will be a ground-breaking element of EPIFISH with major inpact on aquaculture biotechnology,since they will enable the development and application of epigenomic selection as a new feature in future selective breeding programmes.

Moreover, the project outcomes will provide novel mechanistic insights into the role of epigenetics in fish domestication, which will surely open new horizons for future frontier research in epigenetics, namely transgenerational inheritance and nutritional epigenetics


1. To investigate changes in the miRNA transcriptome in fish undergoing domestication.

2. To determine how selection affects the epigenetic landscape (DNA methylation) during domestication

3. To perform a functional characterisation of MiRNA variants (isomiRs) and methylated epialleles associated with growth.

4. To identify isomiRs and epialleles associated with the growth phenotype and to validate them as potential epigenetic markers for future selective breeding programmes.



The EPIFISH project will use a multidisciplinary approach involving transcriptomics, epigenomics, aquaculture and evolutionary biology to study domestication at its research frontier and to generate results that will have a broad and significant impact on various fields of life sciences.  The cutting-edge next-generation sequencing  technologies applied in the project will substantially deepen our understanding of domestication with an unprecedented level of detail at the whole epigenome level.

The project is organised in 5 interconnected work packages, which address the following research question: What is the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms (DNA methylation and miRNAs) to the observed growth improvement during fish domestication?


This Project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN) FRIMEDBIO funding through Nord Univeristet

RCN Project Number: 250548 (Project data bank at RCN)

UiO Project Number: 190772


01.01.2016 - 30.06.2021

Published Mar. 5, 2021 10:55 AM - Last modified Mar. 9, 2021 10:01 AM