The production of Tambaqui growth hormone has been successfully achieved in the laboratory!

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By Milthon Lujan

Photo: Cimone Barros/Inpa
Photo: Cimone Barros/Inpa

Researchers are exploring the potential of using recombinant growth hormone (rGH) to enhance the growth rates of commercially important fish species. They have taken a significant step forward in developing a powerful tool to boost the growth of fish like tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum).

A recent study successfully produced recombinant tambaqui growth hormone (rtGH) in a bioreactor, paving the way for potential applications in aquaculture. The study was conducted by researchers from the Animal Genetics Research Group of the National Institute of Amazonian Research (Inpa/MCTI), the Federal University of Amazonas (Ufam), the Federal Institute of Amazonas (Ifam), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the Leônidas and Maria Deane Institute (ILMD/Fiocruz Amazônia), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), and the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Amazonas (Ifam).

What is Growth Hormone?


Growth hormone (GH) is a protein naturally produced by fish that plays a crucial role in their growth and development. By producing recombinant rtGH, scientists can potentially supplement this hormone, leading to faster-growing tambaqui.

The improvement in the production of this hormone opens the door to biotechnological innovations in livestock with practical applications that ensure the sustainability of fish farming, improving animal management techniques on farms.

The Power of Heterologous Expression

The study employed a technique called “heterologous expression.” This involves isolating the gene responsible for GH production in tambaqui and introducing it into a different organism, in this case, the yeast Komagataella phaffii (formerly Pichia pastoris).

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To manufacture the protein in the laboratory, the researchers used the technique of inserting the tambaqui cDNA gene into the yeast Komagataella phaffii. This yeast is frequently used in biotechnology research due to its efficiency in producing proteins that are not naturally part of its cellular functions, allowing the protein to be manufactured in a more accessible and effective manner for the intended study.


“Expressing the cDNA of a fish’s growth hormone in a heterologous system like Komagataella phaffii yeast means using an organism other than the fish to produce the desired protein. This is important because it can be more efficient and economically viable than extracting it directly from the fish,” explains Jorge Porto, a researcher at INPA, about the technique used in the cloning.

Bioreactors for Large-Scale Production

The research team successfully produced rtGH in a bioreactor. Bioreactors are large, controlled environments ideal for the large-scale production of biological products. This achievement signifies the potential for large-scale production of rtGH, making it a more viable option for aquaculture applications.

Future Implications for Tambaqui Fish Farming

This study paves the way for future research on the efficacy and safety of using rtGH to enhance growth rates in tambaqui. If successful, this technology could revolutionize the Brazilian tambaqui industry and lead to:

  • Increased Aquaculture Production: Faster-growing fish would translate to higher yields for fish farmers.
  • Improved Economic Viability: Higher fish harvests could lead to greater profitability for the industry.
  • Enhanced Food Security: Increased tambaqui production could contribute to a more stable and sustainable food supply.


This study marks a significant milestone: the heterologous expression, purification, and production of rtGH in a bioreactor. The high yield (250 mg per liter) achieved in the bioreactor suggests the potential for cost-effective rtGH production. This paves the way for future research on the use of rtGH to improve tambaqui growth rates, which could lead to a more sustainable and productive aquaculture industry in Brazil.

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For Jorge Porto, a researcher at Inpa and one of the co-authors of the study, the research is a significant milestone for the field of biotechnology and fish farming as a whole. Porto highlights the potential to transform fish farming and benefit both the production sector and consumers, in addition to increasing the supply and quality of fish available for consumption.

“The importance of this work goes beyond the scientific achievement; it opens doors to a range of possibilities in Amazonian biotechnological aquaculture. We are thrilled to see how research that began modestly has evolved into something so impactful and promising. We hope the results of this study can contribute not only to advancing scientific knowledge but also to the development of fish farming,” says the researcher.

The study was funded by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES/Brazil) and the Amazonas Research Foundation (FAPEAM), marking the culmination of a process that began in 2017 with Sadalla’s doctoral thesis.

Universidade Federal do Amazonas, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biotecnologia
Manaus-AM, Brazil
Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Amazonas
Manaus, AM, Brazil
Email: elson.sadalla@ifam.edu.br


Reference (open access)
SADALLA-PINTO, E. A., ANDRADE, E. de ., CARMO, E. J. do ., SOUZA-NETO, J. N. de ., BATISTA, L. M., BENTES-SOUSA, A. R., MARIÚBA, L. A. M., PASSOS, D. de F., FERNANDES, R. P., PEREIRA JUNIOR, N., PORTO, J. I. R., & ASTOLFI-FILHO, S.. (2024). Extracellular expression, purification and bioreactor production of tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) growth hormone in the yeast Komagataella phaffii (formerly Pichia pastoris). Acta Amazonica, 54(2), e54bt23179. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-4392202301791

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Note: Prepared with information from the press release and the scientific article.