Project

BovReg: Identification of functionally active genomic features relevant to phenotypic diversity and plasticity in cattle

Goal: Despite the revolution in functional genome analysis a wide gap in understanding associations between the (epi)genome and complex phenotypes of interest currently remains and impedes efficient use of annotated genomes for precision breeding. The BovReg consortium will provide a comprehensive map of functionally active genomic features in cattle and how their (epi)genetic variation in beef and dairy breeds translates into phenotypes. This constitutes key knowledge for biology-driven genomic prediction needed by scientific and industry livestock communities. The BovReg brings together a critical mass of experts in ruminant research and beyond encompassing bioinformatics, molecular and quantitative genetics, animal breeding, reproductive physiology, ethics and social science. BovReg is embedded in the global and European activities on the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 815668.

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Project log

Wietje Nolte
added a research item
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) hold gene regulatory potential, but require substantial further functional annotation in livestock. Applying two metabogenomic approaches by combining transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses, we aimed to identify lncRNAs with potential regulatory function for divergent nutrient partitioning of lactating crossbred cows and to establish metabogenomic interaction networks comprising metabolites, genes and lncRNAs. Through correlation analysis of lncRNA expression with transcriptomic and metabolomic data, we unraveled lncRNAs that have a putative regulatory role in energy and lipid metabolism, the urea and tricarboxylic acid cycles, and gluconeogenesis. Especially FGF21, which correlated with a plentitude of differentially expressed genes, differentially abundant metabolites, as well as lncRNAs, suggested itself as a key metabolic regulator. Notably, lncRNAs in close physical proximity to coding-genes as well as lncRNAs with natural antisense transcripts appear to perform a fine-tuning function in gene expression involved in metabolic pathways associated with different nutrient partitioning phenotypes.
Wietje Nolte
added a research item
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) can influence transcriptional and translational processes in mammalian cells and are associated with various developmental, physiological and phenotypic conditions. However, they remain poorly understood and annotated in livestock species. We combined phenotypic, metabolomics and liver transcriptomic data of bulls divergent for residual feed intake (RFI) and fat accretion. Based on a project-specific transcriptome annotation for the bovine reference genome ARS-UCD.1.2 and multiple-tissue total RNA sequencing data, we predicted 3590 loci to be lncRNAs. To identify lncRNAs with potential regulatory influence on phenotype and gene expression, we applied the regulatory impact factor algorithm on a functionally prioritized set of loci (n = 4666). Applying the algorithm of partial correlation and information theory, significant and independent pairwise correlations were calculated and co-expression networks were established, including plasma metabolites correlated with lncRNAs. The network hub lncRNAs were assessed for potential cis-actions and subjected to biological pathway enrichment analyses. Our results reveal a prevalence of antisense lncRNAs positively correlated with adjacent protein-coding genes and suggest their participation in mitochondrial function, acute phase response signalling, TCA-cycle, fatty acid β-oxidation and presumably gluconeogenesis. These antisense lncRNAs indicate a stabilizing function for their cis-correlated genes and a putative regulatory role in gene expression.
Christa Kuehn
added a research item
Background: 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 quantitative trait locus 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. Materials and Methods: 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 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 approach highlighted 92, 55, 35, and 73 lncRNAs in jejunum, liver, muscle, and rumen, respectively. Their ensuing high regulatory impact factor scores indicated a potential regulatory key function in a gene set comprising loci displaying differential expression, tissue specificity and loci overlapping with quantitative trait locus regions for residual feed intake or milk production. These were subjected to a partial correlation and information theory analysis with the prioritized gene set. Results and Conclusions: 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 partial correlation and information theory 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 neuronal nitric oxide synthase signaling in skeletal muscle cells.
Christa Kuehn
added a project goal
Despite the revolution in functional genome analysis a wide gap in understanding associations between the (epi)genome and complex phenotypes of interest currently remains and impedes efficient use of annotated genomes for precision breeding. The BovReg consortium will provide a comprehensive map of functionally active genomic features in cattle and how their (epi)genetic variation in beef and dairy breeds translates into phenotypes. This constitutes key knowledge for biology-driven genomic prediction needed by scientific and industry livestock communities. The BovReg brings together a critical mass of experts in ruminant research and beyond encompassing bioinformatics, molecular and quantitative genetics, animal breeding, reproductive physiology, ethics and social science. BovReg is embedded in the global and European activities on the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 815668.