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Bottlenose Dolphin Blood Gene Expression May Be Used to Assess Health

Published on: 09/15/2016
Research Area(s): Marine Spatial Ecology
Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Hawaii

NCCOS scientists recently described the blood transcriptome of bottlenose dolphins with collaborators at Dolphin Quest in Hawaii. This study, published in BMC Genomics, is the first transcriptome-wide analysis of bottlenose dolphin blood and is a fundamental step in establishing reference data needed for future applications in health and exposure assessment.Because gene expression plays a crucial role in health and stress responses, blood transcriptomics has been used to diagnose disease and environmental exposures in human and veterinary medicine.

A seven year old male bottlenose dolphin included in the study. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest Hawaii.

A seven year old male bottlenose dolphin included in the study. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest Hawaii

The term transcriptome is used to describe all of the genes expressed in a sample and represents the small portion of the genome available for use by an organism. A wealth of information can be obtained from blood transcriptomic analysis, highly advantageous in marine mammal species that are logistically and ethically difficult to sample.

In the study, dolphin blood expressed genes with diverse functions that showed little change in expression over the course of one year and between animals in this study. However, groups of co-regulated genes could be found that correlated to standard hematological parameters measured as part of routine veterinary care in these managed dolphins, suggesting that the blood transcriptome may be a useful indicator of health and exposure in this protected species.

For more information contact Jeanine Morey.

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