BackgroundCompensatory growth is a phase of rapid growth, greater than the growth rate of control animals, that occurs after a period of growth-stunting conditions. Fish show a capacity for compensatory growth after alleviation of dietary restriction, but the underlying cellular mechanisms are unknown. To learn more about the contribution of genes regulating hypertrophy (an increase in muscle fibre size) and hyperplasia (the generation of new muscle fibres) in the compensatory muscle growth response in fish, we used high-density microarray analysis to investigate the global gene expression in muscle of trout during a fasting-refeeding schedule and in muscle of control-fed trout displaying normal growth.ResultsThe compensatory muscle growth signature, as defined by genes up-regulated in muscles of refed trout compared with control-fed trout, showed enrichment in functional categories related to protein biosynthesis and maturation, such as RNA processing, ribonucleoprotein complex biogenesis, ribosome biogenesis, translation and protein folding. This signature was also enriched in chromatin-remodelling factors of the protein arginine N-methyl transferase family. Unexpectedly, functional categories related to cell division and DNA replication were not inferred from the molecular signature of compensatory muscle growth, and this signature contained virtually none of the genes previously reported to be up-regulated in hyperplastic growth zones of the late trout embryo myotome and to potentially be involved in production of new myofibres, notably genes encoding myogenic regulatory factors, transmembrane receptors essential for myoblast fusion or myofibrillar proteins predominant in nascent myofibres.ConclusionGenes promoting myofibre growth, but not myofibre formation, were up-regulated in muscles of refed trout compared with continually fed trout. This suggests that a compensatory muscle growth response, resulting from the stimulation of hypertrophy but not the stimulation of hyperplasia, occurs in trout after refeeding. The generation of a large set of genes up-regulated in muscle of refed trout may yield insights into the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling skeletal muscle mass in teleost and serve as a useful list of potential molecular markers of muscle growth in fish.