Background Early development of an oviparous organism is based on maternally stocked structural, nutritional and regulatory components. These components influence the future developmental potential of an embryo, which is referred to as egg quality. Until zygotic genome activation, translational activity in a fish early embryo is limited to parentally inherited transcripts only. In this study, we asked whether egg transcriptome is associated with egg quality in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which is capable of storing ovulated eggs in its abdominal cavity for a long time before spawning. Results We analyzed messenger RNA (mRNA) and micro RNA (miRNA) transcriptomes throughout the post-ovulatory egg retention period in batches of eggs from two quality groups, good and poor, classified based on the future developmental performance. We identified 28,551 protein-coding genes and 125 microRNA families, with 200 mRNAs and 5 miRNAs showing differential abundance between egg quality groups and/or among postovulatory ages. Transcriptome dynamics during the egg retention period was different in the two egg quality groups. We identified only a single gene, hepcidin-1, as a potential marker for Atlantic salmon egg quality evaluation. Conclusion The overlapping effect of post-ovulatory age on intrinsic egg developmental competence makes the quantification of egg quality difficult when based on transcripts abundance only.
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