Tilapias are a group of freshwater species, which vary in their ability to adapt to high salinity water. Osmotic regulation in fish is conducted mainly in the gills, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract (GIT). The mechanisms involved in ion and water transport through the GIT is not well-characterized, with only a few described complexes. Comparing the transcriptome of the anterior and posterior intestinal sections of a freshwater and saltwater adapted fish by deep-sequencing, we examined the salinity adaptation of two tilapia species: the high salinity-tolerant Oreochromis mossambicus (Mozambique tilapia), and the less salinity-tolerant Oreochromis niloticus (Nile tilapia). This comparative analysis revealed high similarity in gene expression response to salinity change between species in the posterior intestine and large differences in the anterior intestine. Furthermore, in the anterior intestine 68 genes were saltwater up-regulated in one species and down-regulated in the other species (47 genes up-regulated in O. niloticus and down-regulated in O. mossambicus, with 21 genes showing the reverse pattern). Gene ontology (GO) analysis showed a high proportion of transporter and ion channel function among these genes. The results of this study point to a group of genes that differed in their salinity-dependent regulation pattern in the anterior intestine as potentially having a role in the differential salinity tolerance of these two closely related species.
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