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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Genet. | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01130

Biological network approach for the identification of regulatory long non-coding RNAs associated with metabolic efficiency in cattle

  • 1Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Germany
  • 2Agriculture & Food, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Brisbane, Australia

Genomic regions associated with divergent livestock feed efficiency have been found predominantly outside protein coding sequences. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) can modulate chromatin accessibility, gene expression and act as important metabolic regulators in mammals. By integrating phenotypic, transcriptomic and metabolomic data with QTL data in prioritizing co-expression network analyses, we aimed to identify and functionally characterize lncRNAs with a potential key regulatory role in metabolic efficiency in cattle.
Crossbred animals (n = 48) of a Charolais x Holstein F2-population were allocated to groups of high or low metabolic efficiency based on residual feed intake (RFI) in bulls, energy corrected milk in cows and intramuscular fat content in both genders.
Tissue samples from jejunum, liver, skeletal, muscle and rumen were subjected to global transcriptomic analysis via stranded total RNA sequencing (RNAseq) and blood plasma samples were used for profiling of 640 metabolites.
To identify lncRNAs within the indicated tissues, a project-specific transcriptome annotation was established. Subsequently, novel transcripts were categorized for potential lncRNA status, yielding a total of 7,646 predicted lncRNA transcripts belonging to 3,287 loci.
A regulatory impact factor (RIF) approach highlighted 92, 55, 35, and 73 lncRNAs in jejunum, liver, muscle, and rumen, respectively. Their ensuing high RIF scores indicated a potential regulatory key function in a gene set comprising loci displaying differential expression, tissue specificity and loci overlapping with QTL regions for RFI or milk production. These were subjected to a partial correlation and information theory (PCIT) analysis with the prioritized gene set. Independent, significant and group-specific correlations (|r| > 0.8) were used to build a network for the high and the low metabolic efficiency group resulting in 1,522 and 1,732 nodes, respectively. Eight lncRNAs displayed a particularly high connectivity (> 100 nodes). Metabolites and genes from the PCIT networks, which each correlated significantly with the respective lncRNA, were included in an enrichment analysis indicating distinct affected pathways for the eight lncRNAs.
LncRNAs associated with metabolic efficiency were classified to be functionally involved in hepatic amino acid metabolism and protein synthesis and in calcium signaling and nNOS signaling in skeletal muscle cells.

Keywords: Bos taurus, metabolic efficiency, lncRNA, FAANG, co-expression gene network

Received: 25 Jun 2019; Accepted: 17 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Nolte, Weikard, Brunner, Albrecht, Hammon, Reverter and Kuehn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Christa Kuehn, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Dummerstorf, 18196, Germany, kuehn@fbn-dummerstorf.de