Association between plasma metabolites and gene expression profiles in five porcine endocrine tissues

Bin Yang, Anna Bassols, Yolanda Saco, Miguel Pérez-Enciso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Endocrine tissues play a fundamental role in maintaining homeostasis of plasma metabolites such as non-esterified fatty acids and glucose, the levels of which reflect the energy balance or the health status of animals. However, the relationship between the transcriptome of endocrine tissues and plasma metabolites has been poorly studied. Methods. We determined the blood levels of 12 plasma metabolites in 27 pigs belonging to five breeds, each breed consisting of both females and males. The transcriptome of five endocrine tissues i.e. hypothalamus, adenohypophysis, thyroid gland, gonads and backfat tissues from 16 out of the 27 pigs was also determined. Sex and breed effects on the 12 plasma metabolites were investigated and associations between genes expressed in the five endocrine tissues and the 12 plasma metabolites measured were analyzed. A probeset was defined as a quantitative trait transcript (QTT) when its association with a particular metabolic trait achieved a nominal P value < 0.01. Results: A larger than expected number of QTT was found for non-esterified fatty acids and alanine aminotransferase in at least two tissues. The associations were highly tissue-specific. The QTT within the tissues were divided into co-expression network modules enriched for genes in Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes or gene ontology categories that are related to the physiological functions of the corresponding tissues. We also explored a multi-tissue co-expression network using QTT for non-esterified fatty acids from the five tissues and found that a module, enriched in hypothalamus QTT, was positioned at the centre of the entire multi-tissue network. Conclusions: These results emphasize the relationships between endocrine tissues and plasma metabolites in terms of gene expression. Highly tissue-specific association patterns suggest that candidate genes or gene pathways should be investigated in the context of specific tissues. © 2011 Yang et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalGenetics Selection And Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


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