The availability of gene expression data that corresponds to pig immune response challenges provides compelling material for the understanding of the host immune system. Meta-analysis offers the opportunity to confirm and expand our knowledge by combining and studying at one time a vast set of independent studies creating large datasets with increased statistical power. In this study, we performed two meta-analyses of porcine transcriptomic data: i) scrutinized the global immune response to different challenges, and ii) determined the specific response to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) infection. To gain an in-depth knowledge of the pig response to PRRSV infection, we used an original approach comparing and eliminating the common genes from both meta-analyses in order to identify genes and pathways specifically involved in the PRRSV immune response. The software Pointillist was used to cope with the highly disparate data, circumventing the biases generated by the specific responses linked to single studies. Next, we used the Ingenuity Pathways Analysis (IPA) software to survey the canonical pathways, biological functions and transcription factors found to be significantly involved in the pig immune response. We used 779 chips corresponding to 29 datasets for the pig global immune response and 279 chips obtained from 6 datasets for the pig response to PRRSV infection, respectively.
The pig global immune response analysis showed interconnected canonical pathways involved in the regulation of translation and mitochondrial energy metabolism. Biological functions revealed in this meta-analysis were centred around translation regulation, which included protein synthesis, RNA-post transcriptional gene expression and cellular growth and proliferation. Furthermore, the oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondria dysfunctions, associated with stress signalling, were highly regulated. Transcription factors such as MYCN, MYC and NFE2L2 were found in this analysis to be potentially involved in the regulation of the immune response.
The host specific response to PRRSV infection engendered the activation of well-defined canonical pathways in response to pathogen challenge such as TREM1, toll-like receptor and hyper-cytokinemia/ hyper-chemokinemia signalling. Furthermore, this analysis brought forth the central role of the crosstalk between innate and adaptive immune response and the regulation of anti-inflammatory response. The most significant transcription factor potentially involved in this analysis was HMGB1, which is required for the innate recognition of viral nucleic acids. Other transcription factors like interferon regulatory factors IRF1, IRF3, IRF5 and IRF8 were also involved in the pig specific response to PRRSV infection.
This work reveals key genes, canonical pathways and biological functions involved in the pig global immune response to diverse challenges, including PRRSV infection. The powerful statistical approach led us to consolidate previous findings as well as to gain new insights into the pig immune response either to common stimuli or specifically to PRRSV infection.