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Center of Excellence for Shrimp Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Centex Shrimp)
Production of cultivated shrimp has been a major industry for Thailand from the late 1980’s. The industry employs about
300,000 people nationwide and has export earnings of about 100 billion baht (about 2 billion US dollars) per year. Thus,
Thailand has become a world leader in the production of premium, value-added shrimp products and shrimp seed. To maintain this leadership, Thailand must develop and train specialists to carry out relevant research and provide continuous industry support.
The Center of Excellence for Shrimp Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (abbreviated as Centex Shrimp) is a multidisciplinary laboratory formed in October 2001 by amalgamation
of research laboratories from the Departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Biotechnology of the Faculty of Science, jointly supported by the Faculty of Science, Mahidol University
and the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC). Its mission
is “Premier science for premium shrimp” and its vision is that Thailand in 2012 will lead the world in producing the highest quality shrimp products without negative environmental impact. Centex strategy for achieving this goal is 1) to maintain its position as a national
and regional focus for research and training in molecular biology and biotechnology for shrimp production, 2) to serve as a coordination center whereby Mahidol University can cooperate with BIOTEC and other national and international institutions on shrimp research and 3) to operate in close consultation with the Thai shrimp industry so that Centex work is both academically sound and relevant to shrimp industry needs.
Current priorities are broodstock development, and disease diagnosis and control. The six main areas of related research interest are molecular study of shrimp pathogens including viruses, bacteria and parasites; development of diagnostic probes and kits for shrimp diseases; research on shrimp humoral and cellular defense mechanisms; shrimp genome analysis; shrimp nutritional research related to reproduction; and development and improvement of domesticated and specific pathogen-free (SPF) black tiger shrimp stocks. Although hard to predict, future needs may shift to such areas as genetic improvement of domesticated stocks, improvement in shrimp production efficiency (e.g., reduced mortality at all stages of rearing) and support for introduction of alternative species. Being a “firehouse” is also an important Centex function. Centex shrimp is a storehouse
of information, technology and expertise in shrimp disease diagnosis and control and can respond quickly to assist the shrimp industry in stopping disease outbreaks, such as the exotic Taura syndrome virus (TSV), which came from the Americas via importation of infected white shrimp (P. vannamei) stocks. Centex Shrimp is also prepared for the possible emergence of other viruses.
Molecular study and diagnosis of shrimp pathogens including viruses, bacteria and parasites
Controlling disease is a high priority for the shrimp industry. Centex Shrimp has focused on characterization of causative viruses, to enable development of rapid diagnostic probes. However, we also work on bacteria and parasites. Since 2002, we have studied not only the diseases of the black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon), but also the American white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei). Deadly viruses include white-spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and yellow-head virus (YHV) for all cultured shrimp, hepatopancreatic parvovirus (HPV) and monodon baculovirus (MBV) for black tiger shrimp, and Taura syndrome virus (TSV) and infectious hypodermal and haematopoeitic virus (IHHNV) for the American white shrimp. DNA diagnostic procedures for several of these (WSSV, YHV and HPV) have been developed by our group and the technology has been licensed to the Shrimp Biotechnology Business unit (SBBU) of BIOTEC under the Ezee Gene brand. We have also developed molecular diagnostic methods for the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus and for two species of microsporidians. Detailed research is also being carried out on the total genome of YHV and expression of its structural proteins, with the view of using the expressed proteins to carry out functional studies and to develop diagnostic kits and “vaccines”.
Shrimp genome analysis
Centex Shrimp research on shrimp genome analysis focuses on construction of EST libraries from normal and pathogen challenged shrimp in collaboration with Dr. Anchalee Tassanakajon, at Chulalongkorn University. Ongoing studies in functional genomics and proteomics with selected genes are helping us to understand shrimp defense mechanisms and devise new methods of disease control. The EST libraries will also help in the construction of a genetic map for P. monodon that will be applied in programs for genetic improvement of domesticated shrimp stocks. Genetic mapping work is being done in collaboration with research groups in Australia, Japan and Taiwan.
Shrimp humoral and cellular defense mechanisms

Shrimp viral infections are characterized by the general lack of an inflammatory response. Epizootics by newly introduced viral pathogens follow a pattern of initial, wide spread, catastrophic crop losses and then, within a year or so, sporadic crop losses even though
the pathogen is widespread in persistently infected shrimp that show little or no mortality. Understanding the phenomenon may help us to develop new methods of prevention and therapy. Centex Shrimp scientists have proposed a radically new working concept called “active viral accommodation” to explain this adaptation. Test results suggest that shrimp actively accommodate viral pathogens as persistent infections that help to reduce disease severity, possibly by inactivating triggers for viral induced apoptosis (i.e., programmed cell death).
Shrimp nutritional research
Centex Shrimp’s interest in shrimp nutrition focuses on broodstock, particularly for maturation and reproduction diets. It is well-known that best results for egg and larval production in broodstock shrimp can be obtained only by using live polychaete worms. To avoid problems with disease transfer from captured polychaetes, we have developed methods for rearing SPF polychaetes for safe feeding of broodstock and are trying to discover why live polychaetes are so necessary for good shrimp reproduction. We are also interested in probiotic microbes, immunostimulants, and the effect of nutrition and stress on disease.
Shrimp reproduction.
Aside from broodstock nutrition, we are trying to better understand the shrimp reproductive process, with the aim of increasing efficiency of larval production, as well as larval survival and quality in shrimp hatcheries. For example, our recent studies have revealed that egg maturation is very fast in P. monodon and that the interval available for fertilization is very, very short after egg release (spawning). In addition, we found that sperm stored in the female theylicum undergoes a maturation process, essential to obtain high fertilization rates. We hope that a better understanding will allow better control over the reproductive process, and possible cryopreservation of eggs and sperm, as well as in vitro fertilization.
Development and improvement of domesticated, specific pathogen-free (SPF) black tiger shrimp
Increasing usage of wild P. monodon broodstock to produce postlarvae (PL) in hatcheries in Thailand and worldwide has led to a reduction in the number and quality of captured wild broodstock available in Thailand. Prices have risen steeply and this has increased the cost
of hatchery operation and the price of post larvae for farmers. The captured wild broodstock are also highly variable in terms of the seed quality they produce. The best solution to these problems would be domestication of P. monodon. Centex Shrimp is closely allied to the national Shrimp Improvement and Breeding Center (SIBC) of BIOTEC located at Chaiya in Srathani Province in southern Thailand and the nearby Shrimp Quarantine and Broodstock and Larval Development Research Center at Walailuk University in Nakornsrithammarat Province. Centex Shrimp assists these enterprises in biotechnological aspects of improving pathogen control, reproductive performance, and methods for selection of economically important traits.
Centex Shrimp has an active post-graduate training program with 15-20 M.Sc. and Ph.D. students and up to 5 post-doctoral fellows. It also accepts a few undergraduate students for senior projects each year. In addition, it offers a yearly regional training course on shrimp biology and pathology and occasional courses on specialized topics according to demand. For example, it recently sponsored together with BIOTEC a specialist course on shrimp immunology for both local and international participants. In cooperation with SBBU, it also provides consultants and training at the request of the Thai shrimp industry in the areas of disease diagnosis, disease control and broodstock development
The three lead scientists Vichai Boonsaeng, Tim Flegel and Boonsirm Withyachumnarnkul were awarded the Toray Science Foundation Award in 2000 for their work on shrimp viral disease diagnosis and control, as well as the Outstanding Technology Group Award in 2003 in recognition for development of practical diagnostic reagents and tools for the black tiger shrimp industry. Wansika Kiatpathomchai and Dr. Kallaya Sritunyalucksana received UNESCO-L’Oreal Women of Science Awards in 2005 and 2007.
Centex Shrimp attempts to work with other scientists both in Thailand and aboard that share interests in disease diagnosis and control and development of domesticated broodstock. A number of mutual benefits and joint publications have resulted. In Thailand, links include Chulalongkorn University on shrimp genetics, Srinakharinwirot University on diagnostic tool development, Rangsit University on pathogen isolation, characterization and diagnosis, Prince of Songkhla University on disease diagnosis and control, the Thai Department of Fisheries on disease control and shrimp domestication, and Mae Jo University on shrimp apoptotic genes. Overseas collaborators include the National University of Taiwan, CSIRO Livestock Industries, Australia, University of Arizona, University of Uppsala, Sweden, James Cook University, Australia, and the Oceanic Institute, Hawaii. These external collaborations sometimes involve student and scientist exchanges and have led to a number of joint publications in international scientific journals.
Sample publications 2007
1. Molthathong S, Rojtinnakorn J, Senapin S, Flegel TW (2007) Hepatopancreatic nuclease of black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon unlikely to be involved in viral triggered apoptosis. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 22:617-627
2. Flegel TW (2007) The right to refuse revision in the genus Penaeus. Aquaculture 264:2-8
3. Sithigorngul W, Rukpratanporn S, Sittidilokratna N, Pecharaburanin N, Longyant S, Chaivisuthangkura P, Sithigorngul P (2007) A convenient immunochromatographic test strip for rapid diagnosis of yellow head virus infection in shrimp. Journal of Virological Methods 140:193-199
4. Flegel TW (2007) Update on viral accommodation, a model for host-viral interaction in shrimp and other arthropods. Developmental & Comparative Immunology 31:217-231
5. Senapin S, Phewsaiya K, Briggs M, Flegel TW (2007) Outbreaks of infectious myonecrosis virus (IMNV) in Indonesia confirmed by genome sequencing and use of an alternative RT-PCR detection method. Aquaculture 266:32-38
6. Sriphaijit T, Senapin S (2007) High expression of a novel leucine-rich repeat protein in hemocytes and the lymphoid organ of the black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 22:264-271
7. Sriphaijit T, Flegel TW, Senapin S Characterization of a shrimp serine protease homolog, a binding protein of yellow head virus. Developmental & Comparative Immunology In Press, Corrected Proof: 2786
8. Sangsuriya P, Rojtinnakorn J, Senapin S, Flegel TW Characterization and tissue expression of apoptosis-related ALG-2 interacting protein Alix/AIP1 from the black tiger shrimp Penaeus monodon. Fish & Shellfish Immunology. In Press, Corrected Proof
Contact address:
Centex Shrimp, Chalerm Phrakiat Building
Faculty of Science, Mahidol University
Rama VI Road, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Tel: (66-2) 247-5870-2
Fax: (66-2) 247 7051
e-mail: tetlt@mahidol.ac.th



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