The blue catfish is of great value in aquaculture and recreational fisheries. The F1 hybrids of female channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) × male blue catfish (Ictalurusfurcatus) have been the primary driver of US catfish production in recent years because of superior growth, survival, and carcass yield. The channel–blue hybrid also provides an excellent model to investigate molecular mechanisms of environment-dependent heterosis. However, transcriptome and methylome studies suffered from low alignment rates to the channel catfish genome due to divergence, and the genome resources for blue catfish are not publicly available.
The blue catfish genome assembly is 841.86 Mbp in length with excellent continuity (8.6 Mbp contig N50, 28.2 Mbp scaffold N50) and completeness (98.6% Eukaryota and 97.0% Actinopterygii BUSCO). A total of 30,971 protein-coding genes were predicted, of which 21,781 were supported by RNA sequencing evidence. Phylogenomic analyses revealed that it diverged from channel catfish approximately 9 million years ago with 15.7 million fixed nucleotide differences. The within-species single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) density is 0.32% between the most aquaculturally important blue catfish strains (D&B and Rio Grande). Gene family analysis discovered significant expansion of immune-related families in the blue catfish lineage, which may contribute to disease resistance in blue catfish.