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1.  Whole-transcriptome, high-throughput RNA sequence analysis of the bovine macrophage response to Mycobacterium bovis infection in vitro 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:230.
Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis, is an intracellular pathogen that can persist inside host macrophages during infection via a diverse range of mechanisms that subvert the host immune response. In the current study, we have analysed and compared the transcriptomes of M. bovis-infected monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) purified from six Holstein-Friesian females with the transcriptomes of non-infected control MDM from the same animals over a 24 h period using strand-specific RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). In addition, we compare gene expression profiles generated using RNA-seq with those previously generated by us using the high-density Affymetrix® GeneChip® Bovine Genome Array platform from the same MDM-extracted RNA.
A mean of 7.2 million reads from each MDM sample mapped uniquely and unambiguously to single Bos taurus reference genome locations. Analysis of these mapped reads showed 2,584 genes (1,392 upregulated; 1,192 downregulated) and 757 putative natural antisense transcripts (558 upregulated; 119 downregulated) that were differentially expressed based on sense and antisense strand data, respectively (adjusted P-value ≤ 0.05). Of the differentially expressed genes, 694 were common to both the sense and antisense data sets, with the direction of expression (i.e. up- or downregulation) positively correlated for 693 genes and negatively correlated for the remaining gene. Gene ontology analysis of the differentially expressed genes revealed an enrichment of immune, apoptotic and cell signalling genes. Notably, the number of differentially expressed genes identified from RNA-seq sense strand analysis was greater than the number of differentially expressed genes detected from microarray analysis (2,584 genes versus 2,015 genes). Furthermore, our data reveal a greater dynamic range in the detection and quantification of gene transcripts for RNA-seq compared to microarray technology.
This study highlights the value of RNA-seq in identifying novel immunomodulatory mechanisms that underlie host-mycobacterial pathogen interactions during infection, including possible complex post-transcriptional regulation of host gene expression involving antisense RNA.
PMCID: PMC3640917  PMID: 23565803
Bovine tuberculosis; Immune response; Microarray; Mycobacterium bovis; Natural antisense transcript; RNA-sequencing; Transcriptome
2.  Polymorphism discovery and allele frequency estimation using high-throughput DNA sequencing of target-enriched pooled DNA samples 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:16.
The central role of the somatotrophic axis in animal post-natal growth, development and fertility is well established. Therefore, the identification of genetic variants affecting quantitative traits within this axis is an attractive goal. However, large sample numbers are a pre-requisite for the identification of genetic variants underlying complex traits and although technologies are improving rapidly, high-throughput sequencing of large numbers of complete individual genomes remains prohibitively expensive. Therefore using a pooled DNA approach coupled with target enrichment and high-throughput sequencing, the aim of this study was to identify polymorphisms and estimate allele frequency differences across 83 candidate genes of the somatotrophic axis, in 150 Holstein-Friesian dairy bulls divided into two groups divergent for genetic merit for fertility.
In total, 4,135 SNPs and 893 indels were identified during the resequencing of the 83 candidate genes. Nineteen percent (n = 952) of variants were located within 5' and 3' UTRs. Seventy-two percent (n = 3,612) were intronic and 9% (n = 464) were exonic, including 65 indels and 236 SNPs resulting in non-synonymous substitutions (NSS). Significant (P < 0.01) mean allele frequency differentials between the low and high fertility groups were observed for 720 SNPs (58 NSS). Allele frequencies for 43 of the SNPs were also determined by genotyping the 150 individual animals (Sequenom® MassARRAY). No significant differences (P > 0.1) were observed between the two methods for any of the 43 SNPs across both pools (i.e., 86 tests in total).
The results of the current study support previous findings of the use of DNA sample pooling and high-throughput sequencing as a viable strategy for polymorphism discovery and allele frequency estimation. Using this approach we have characterised the genetic variation within genes of the somatotrophic axis and related pathways, central to mammalian post-natal growth and development and subsequent lactogenesis and fertility. We have identified a large number of variants segregating at significantly different frequencies between cattle groups divergent for calving interval plausibly harbouring causative variants contributing to heritable variation. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing sequencing of targeted genomic regions in any livestock species using groups with divergent phenotypes for an economically important trait.
PMCID: PMC3315736  PMID: 22235840
3.  Genome-wide transcriptional profiling of peripheral blood leukocytes from cattle infected with Mycobacterium bovis reveals suppression of host immune genes 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:611.
Mycobacterium bovis is the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (BTB), a pathological infection with significant economic impact. Recent studies have highlighted the role of functional genomics to better understand the molecular mechanisms governing the host immune response to M. bovis infection. Furthermore, these studies may enable the identification of novel transcriptional markers of BTB that can augment current diagnostic tests and surveillance programmes. In the present study, we have analysed the transcriptome of peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) from eight M. bovis-infected and eight control non-infected age-matched and sex-matched Holstein-Friesian cattle using the Affymetrix® GeneChip® Bovine Genome Array with 24,072 gene probe sets representing more than 23,000 gene transcripts.
Control and infected animals had similar mean white blood cell counts. However, the mean number of lymphocytes was significantly increased in the infected group relative to the control group (P = 0.001), while the mean number of monocytes was significantly decreased in the BTB group (P = 0.002). Hierarchical clustering analysis using gene expression data from all 5,388 detectable mRNA transcripts unambiguously partitioned the animals according to their disease status. In total, 2,960 gene transcripts were differentially expressed (DE) between the infected and control animal groups (adjusted P-value threshold ≤ 0.05); with the number of gene transcripts showing decreased relative expression (1,563) exceeding those displaying increased relative expression (1,397). Systems analysis using the Ingenuity® Systems Pathway Analysis (IPA) Knowledge Base revealed an over-representation of DE genes involved in the immune response functional category. More specifically, 64.5% of genes in the affects immune response subcategory displayed decreased relative expression levels in the infected animals compared to the control group.
This study demonstrates that genome-wide transcriptional profiling of PBL can distinguish active M. bovis-infected animals from control non-infected animals. Furthermore, the results obtained support previous investigations demonstrating that mycobacterial infection is associated with host transcriptional suppression. These data support the use of transcriptomic technologies to enable the identification of robust, reliable transcriptional markers of active M. bovis infection.
PMCID: PMC3292584  PMID: 22182502
4.  A genome-wide SNP-association study confirms a sequence variant (g.66493737C>T) in the equine myostatin (MSTN) gene as the most powerful predictor of optimum racing distance for Thoroughbred racehorses 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:552.
Thoroughbred horses have been selected for traits contributing to speed and stamina for centuries. It is widely recognized that inherited variation in physical and physiological characteristics is responsible for variation in individual aptitude for race distance, and that muscle phenotypes in particular are important.
A genome-wide SNP-association study for optimum racing distance was performed using the EquineSNP50 Bead Chip genotyping array in a cohort of n = 118 elite Thoroughbred racehorses divergent for race distance aptitude. In a cohort-based association test we evaluated genotypic variation at 40,977 SNPs between horses suited to short distance (≤ 8 f) and middle-long distance (> 8 f) races. The most significant SNP was located on chromosome 18: BIEC2-417495 ~690 kb from the gene encoding myostatin (MSTN) [Punadj. = 6.96 × 10-6]. Considering best race distance as a quantitative phenotype, a peak of association on chromosome 18 (chr18:65809482-67545806) comprising eight SNPs encompassing a 1.7 Mb region was observed. Again, similar to the cohort-based analysis, the most significant SNP was BIEC2-417495 (Punadj. = 1.61 × 10-9; PBonf. = 6.58 × 10-5). In a candidate gene study we have previously reported a SNP (g.66493737C>T) in MSTN associated with best race distance in Thoroughbreds; however, its functional and genome-wide relevance were uncertain. Additional re-sequencing in the flanking regions of the MSTN gene revealed four novel 3' UTR SNPs and a 227 bp SINE insertion polymorphism in the 5' UTR promoter sequence. Linkage disequilibrium was highest between g.66493737C>T and BIEC2-417495 (r2 = 0.86).
Comparative association tests consistently demonstrated the g.66493737C>T SNP as the superior variant in the prediction of distance aptitude in racehorses (g.66493737C>T, P = 1.02 × 10-10; BIEC2-417495, Punadj. = 1.61 × 10-9). Functional investigations will be required to determine whether this polymorphism affects putative transcription-factor binding and gives rise to variation in gene and protein expression. Nonetheless, this study demonstrates that the g.66493737C>T SNP provides the most powerful genetic marker for prediction of race distance aptitude in Thoroughbreds.
PMCID: PMC3091701  PMID: 20932346
5.  Characterization of the equine skeletal muscle transcriptome identifies novel functional responses to exercise training 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:398.
Digital gene expression profiling was used to characterize the assembly of genes expressed in equine skeletal muscle and to identify the subset of genes that were differentially expressed following a ten-month period of exercise training. The study cohort comprised seven Thoroughbred racehorses from a single training yard. Skeletal muscle biopsies were collected at rest from the gluteus medius at two time points: T1 - untrained, (9 ± 0.5 months old) and T2 - trained (20 ± 0.7 months old).
The most abundant mRNA transcripts in the muscle transcriptome were those involved in muscle contraction, aerobic respiration and mitochondrial function. A previously unreported over-representation of genes related to RNA processing, the stress response and proteolysis was observed. Following training 92 tags were differentially expressed of which 74 were annotated. Sixteen genes showed increased expression, including the mitochondrial genes ACADVL, MRPS21 and SLC25A29 encoded by the nuclear genome. Among the 58 genes with decreased expression, MSTN, a negative regulator of muscle growth, had the greatest decrease.
Functional analysis of all expressed genes using FatiScan revealed an asymmetric distribution of 482 Gene Ontology (GO) groups and 18 KEGG pathways. Functional groups displaying highly significant (P < 0.0001) increased expression included mitochondrion, oxidative phosphorylation and fatty acid metabolism while functional groups with decreased expression were mainly associated with structural genes and included the sarcoplasm, laminin complex and cytoskeleton.
Exercise training in Thoroughbred racehorses results in coordinate changes in the gene expression of functional groups of genes related to metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation and muscle structure.
PMCID: PMC2900271  PMID: 20573200
6.  Transcriptional adaptations following exercise in Thoroughbred horse skeletal muscle highlights molecular mechanisms that lead to muscle hypertrophy 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:638.
Selection for exercise-adapted phenotypes in the Thoroughbred racehorse has provided a valuable model system to understand molecular responses to exercise in skeletal muscle. Exercise stimulates immediate early molecular responses as well as delayed responses during recovery, resulting in a return to homeostasis and enabling long term adaptation. Global mRNA expression during the immediate-response period has not previously been reported in skeletal muscle following exercise in any species. Also, global gene expression changes in equine skeletal muscle following exercise have not been reported. Therefore, to identify novel genes and key regulatory pathways responsible for exercise adaptation we have used equine-specific cDNA microarrays to examine global mRNA expression in skeletal muscle from a cohort of Thoroughbred horses (n = 8) at three time points (before exercise, immediately post-exercise, and four hours post-exercise) following a single bout of treadmill exercise.
Skeletal muscle biopsies were taken from the gluteus medius before (T0), immediately after (T1) and four hours after (T2) exercise. Statistically significant differences in mRNA abundance between time points (T0 vs T1 and T0 vs T2) were determined using the empirical Bayes moderated t-test in the Bioconductor package Linear Models for Microarray Data (LIMMA) and the expression of a select panel of genes was validated using real time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR). While only two genes had increased expression at T1 (P < 0.05), by T2 932 genes had increased (P < 0.05) and 562 genes had decreased expression (P < 0.05). Functional analysis of genes differentially expressed during the recovery phase (T2) revealed an over-representation of genes localized to the actin cytoskeleton and with functions in the MAPK signalling, focal adhesion, insulin signalling, mTOR signaling, p53 signaling and Type II diabetes mellitus pathways. At T1, using a less stringent statistical approach, we observed an over-representation of genes involved in the stress response, metabolism and intracellular signaling. These findings suggest that protein synthesis, mechanosensation and muscle remodeling contribute to skeletal muscle adaptation towards improved integrity and hypertrophy.
This is the first study to characterize global mRNA expression profiles in equine skeletal muscle using an equine-specific microarray platform. Here we reveal novel genes and mechanisms that are temporally expressed following exercise providing new knowledge about the early and late molecular responses to exercise in the equine skeletal muscle transcriptome.
PMCID: PMC2812474  PMID: 20042072
7.  Transcriptional profiling of cattle infected with Trypanosoma congolense highlights gene expression signatures underlying trypanotolerance and trypanosusceptibility 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:207.
African animal trypanosomiasis (AAT) caused by tsetse fly-transmitted protozoa of the genus Trypanosoma is a major constraint on livestock and agricultural production in Africa and is among the top ten global cattle diseases impacting on the poor. Here we show that a functional genomics approach can be used to identify temporal changes in host peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) gene expression due to disease progression. We also show that major gene expression differences exist between cattle from trypanotolerant and trypanosusceptible breeds. Using bovine long oligonucleotide microarrays and real time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) validation we analysed PBMC gene expression in naïve trypanotolerant and trypanosusceptible cattle experimentally challenged with Trypanosoma congolense across a 34-day infection time course.
Trypanotolerant N'Dama cattle displayed a rapid and distinct transcriptional response to infection, with a ten-fold higher number of genes differentially expressed at day 14 post-infection compared to trypanosusceptible Boran cattle. These analyses identified coordinated temporal gene expression changes for both breeds in response to trypanosome infection. In addition, a panel of genes were identified that showed pronounced differences in gene expression between the two breeds, which may underlie the phenomena of trypanotolerance and trypanosusceptibility. Gene ontology (GO) analysis demonstrate that the products of these genes may contribute to increased mitochondrial mRNA translational efficiency, a more pronounced B cell response, an elevated activation status and a heightened response to stress in trypanotolerant cattle.
This study has revealed an extensive and diverse range of cellular processes that are altered temporally in response to trypanosome infection in African cattle. Results indicate that the trypanotolerant N'Dama cattle respond more rapidly and with a greater magnitude to infection compared to the trypanosusceptible Boran cattle. Specifically, a subset of the genes analyzed by real time qRT-PCR, which display significant breed differences, could collectively contribute to the trypanotolerance trait in N'Dama.
PMCID: PMC2685408  PMID: 19409086
8.  Antigen stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from Mycobacterium bovis infected cattle yields evidence for a novel gene expression program 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:447.
Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) caused by Mycobacterium bovis continues to cause substantial losses to global agriculture and has significant repercussions for human health. The advent of high throughput genomics has facilitated large scale gene expression analyses that present a novel opportunity for revealing the molecular mechanisms underlying mycobacterial infection. Using this approach, we have previously shown that innate immune genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from BTB-infected animals are repressed in vivo in the absence of exogenous antigen stimulation. In the present study, we hypothesized that the PBMC from BTB-infected cattle would display a distinct gene expression program resulting from exposure to M. bovis. A functional genomics approach was used to examine the immune response of BTB-infected (n = 6) and healthy control (n = 6) cattle to stimulation with bovine tuberculin (purified protein derivative – PPD-b) in vitro. PBMC were harvested before, and at 3 h and 12 h post in vitro stimulation with bovine tuberculin. Gene expression changes were catalogued within each group using a reference hybridization design and a targeted immunospecific cDNA microarray platform (BOTL-5) with 4,800 spot features representing 1,391 genes.
250 gene spot features were significantly differentially expressed in BTB-infected animals at 3 h post-stimulation contrasting with only 88 gene spot features in the non-infected control animals (P ≤ 0.05). At 12 h post-stimulation, 56 and 80 gene spot features were differentially expressed in both groups respectively. The results provided evidence of a proinflammatory gene expression profile in PBMC from BTB-infected animals in response to antigen stimulation. Furthermore, a common panel of eighteen genes, including transcription factors were significantly expressed in opposite directions in both groups. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) demonstrated that many innate immune genes, including components of the TLR pathway and cytokines were differentially expressed in BTB-infected (n = 8) versus control animals (n = 8) after stimulation with bovine tuberculin.
The PBMC from BTB-infected animals exhibit different transcriptional profiles compared with PBMC from healthy control animals in response to M. bovis antigen stimulation, providing evidence of a novel gene expression program due to M. bovis exposure.
PMCID: PMC2569068  PMID: 18823559
9.  Innate gene repression associated with Mycobacterium bovis infection in cattle: toward a gene signature of disease 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:400.
Bovine tuberculosis is an enduring disease of cattle that has significant repercussions for human health. The advent of high-throughput functional genomics technologies has facilitated large-scale analyses of the immune response to this disease that may ultimately lead to novel diagnostics and therapeutic targets. Analysis of mRNA abundance in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from six Mycobacterium bovis infected cattle and six non-infected controls was performed. A targeted immunospecific bovine cDNA microarray with duplicated spot features representing 1,391 genes was used to test the hypothesis that a distinct gene expression profile may exist in M. bovis infected animals in vivo.
In total, 378 gene features were differentially expressed at the P ≤ 0.05 level in bovine tuberculosis (BTB)-infected and control animals, of which 244 were expressed at lower levels (65%) in the infected group. Lower relative expression of key innate immune genes, including the Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and TLR4 genes, lack of differential expression of indicator adaptive immune gene transcripts (IFNG, IL2, IL4), and lower BOLA major histocompatibility complex – class I (BOLA) and class II (BOLA-DRA) gene expression was consistent with innate immune gene repression in the BTB-infected animals. Supervised hierarchical cluster analysis and class prediction validation identified a panel of 15 genes predictive of disease status and selected gene transcripts were validated (n = 8 per group) by real time quantitative reverse transcription PCR.
These results suggest that large-scale expression profiling can identify gene signatures of disease in peripheral blood that can be used to classify animals on the basis of in vivo infection, in the absence of exogenous antigenic stimulation.
PMCID: PMC2213678  PMID: 17974019

Results 1-9 (9)