Common sole (Solea solea) aquaculture production is based mostly on wild-caught breeders. Recently, the successful reproduction of first-generation fish that were reared in captivity was accomplished. A consistent good quality and quantity of produced eggs throughout the year, and of next-generation broodstock, is important for reducing the overall cost of production. Hox genes play a pivotal role in normal embryonic development and alterations of their temporal expression level may be important for egg viability. Expression profile analysis of five hox genes (hoxa1a, hoxa2a, hoxa2b, hoxb1a and hoxb1b) involved in early embryonic development and of hoxa13a, which is involved in late stages, was carried out. Results revealed a premature and/or maternal expression of hoxa13a in sole embryos, and the detection of hoxa2a and hoxa2b genes as members of paralog group 2. Principal Component Analysis of hox gene expression in 54 ± 6 hours post fertilization embryos coming from wild-caught broodstock and a first-generation one reared in the hatchery, unveiled that these broodstocks are clearly distinct. In addition, their pairwise comparison revealed significant differences in the expression levels of hoxb1a and hoxb1b genes. Hox gene regulation during embryonic development could give valuable insight into rearing sole broodstocks with different origin in concert, and also into gaining a steady mass production of eggs, either in quality or quantity, all year round.
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