Fatty acids composition in poultry muscle is directly related to its tenderness, flavour, and juiciness, whereas its genetic mechanisms have not been elucidated. In this study, the genetic structure and key regulatory genes of the breast muscle fatty acid composition of local Chinese chicken, Gushi-Anka F2 resource population by integrating genome-wide association study (GWAS) and weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) strategies. GWAS was performed based on 323,306 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) obtained by genotyping by sequencing (GBS) method and 721 chickens from the Gushi-Anka F2 resource population with highly variable fatty acid composition traits in the breast muscle. And then, according to the transcriptome data of the candidate genes that were obtained and phenotypic data of fatty acid composition traits in breast muscle of Gushi chickens at 14, 22, and 30 weeks of age, we conducted a WGCNA.
A total of 128 suggestive significantly associated SNPs for 11 fatty acid composition traits were identified and mapped on chromosomes (Chr) 2, 3, 4, 5, 13, 17, 21, and 27. Of these, the two most significant SNPs were Chr13:5,100,140 (P = 4.56423e-10) and Chr13:5,100,173 (P = 4.56423e-10), which explained 5.6% of the phenotypic variation in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). In addition, six fatty acid composition traits, including C20:1, C22:6, saturated fatty acid (SFA), unsaturated fatty acids (UFA), PUFA, and average chain length (ACL), were located in the same QTL intervals on Chr13. We obtained 505 genes by scanning the linkage disequilibrium (LD) regions of all significant SNPs and performed a WGCNA based on the transcriptome data of the above 505 genes. Combining two strategies, 9 hub genes (ENO1, ADH1, ASAH1, ADH1C, PIK3CD, WISP1, AKT1, PANK3, and C1QTNF2) were finally identified, which could be the potential candidate genes regulating fatty acid composition traits in chicken breast muscle.
The results of this study deepen our understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of fatty acid composition traits, which is helpful in the design of breeding strategies for the subsequent improvement of fatty acid composition in poultry muscle.