Table_5_Biological Network Approach for the Identification of Regulatory Long Non-Coding RNAs Associated With Metabolic Efficiency in Cattle.xlsx

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.