Published In

Scientific Reports

Document Type


Publication Date



Cell Developement -- Biology, Sturgeons -- Conservation


The white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) is the largest freshwater fish in North America. Because of the unique life history characteristics of sturgeon, including longevity, late maturation and long spawning intervals, their aquaculture can be a significant investment of resources. As a result of habitat loss and overharvesting, natural populations of white sturgeon are threatened and there is a growing effort to improve conservation aquaculture programs. Germ cell transplantation is an innovative technology previously demonstrated in a variety of fish species to be able to produce a surrogate broodstock. The technique relies upon optimal donor germ cell recovery and transplantation into a recipient fish. In this study, we developed and optimized the harvest of donor cells for germline transplantation and evaluated methods for ovary cryopreservation for the first time in the white sturgeon. We found that harvesting gonads from juveniles between the ages of 1.5 and 2.5-years resulted in reliably high proportions of pre-meiotic cells regardless of sex, a critical feature for using white sturgeon for transplantation studies since the species shows no distinguishing external sex characteristics. From the viable cells, we identified germline cells using immunolabeling with the antibody DDX4, a marker specific to the germline. For in vivo tracking of donor cells during transplantations, gonadal cells were stained with a long half-life non-toxic cell membrane dye, PKH26, and microinjected into the peritoneal cavity of newly hatched white sturgeon larvae. Larvae were reared until 3 months post-transplantation to monitor for colonization and proliferation of PKH26-labeled cells within the recipient larval gonads. Furthermore, viable cell detection, assessment of germline-specificity, and transplantation was determined for cells recovered from cryopreserved ovarian tissue from sexually immature females. Transplantations using cells cryopreserved with media supplemented with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) rather than ethylene glycol (EG) demonstrated the highest number of PKH26-labeled cells distributed along the gonadal ridges of the larval recipient. Determining optimal methods of tissue cryopreservation, and germ cell recovery and transplantation are foundational to the future development of germ cell transplantation as a strategy to improve the aquaculture and conservation of this species. Our study demonstrates that conservation actions, such as surrogate breeding, could be utilized by hatcheries to retain or improve natural gamete production without genetic modification, and provide an encouraging approach to the management of threatened sturgeon species.


Copyright (c) 2023 The Authors

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



Persistent Identifier

Included in

Biology Commons