1 Animal Genetics, Bioinformatics and Breeding, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 IKVH Animal Genetics, Bioinformatics, and breeding, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 University Medical Centre Groningen4 Animal Genetics, Bioinformatics and Breeding, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Background Obesity is a complex metabolic condition in strong association with various diseases, like type 2 diabetes, resulting in major public health and economic implications. Obesity is the result of environmental and genetic factors and their interactions, including genome-wide genetic interactions. Identification of co-expressed and regulatory genes in RNA extracted from relevant tissues representing lean and obese individuals provides an entry point for the identification of genes and pathways of importance to the development of obesity. The pig, an omnivorous animal, is an excellent model for human obesity, offering the possibility to study in-depth organ-level transcriptomic regulations of obesity, unfeasible in humans. Our aim was to reveal adipose tissue co-expression networks, pathways and transcriptional regulations of obesity using RNA Sequencing based systems biology approaches in a porcine model. Methods We selected 36 animals for RNA Sequencing from a previously created F2 pig population representing three extreme groups based on their predicted genetic risks for obesity. We applied Weighted Gene Co-expression Network Analysis (WGCNA) to detect clusters of highly co-expressed genes (modules). Additionally, regulator genes were detected using Lemon-Tree algorithms. Results WGCNA revealed five modules which were strongly correlated with at least one obesity-related phenotype (correlations ranging from -0.54 to 0.72, P < 0.001). Functional annotation identified pathways enlightening the association between obesity and other diseases, like osteoporosis (osteoclast differentiation, P = 1.4E-7), and immune-related complications (e.g. Natural killer cell mediated cytotoxity, P = 3.8E-5; B cell receptor signaling pathway, P = 7.2E-5). Lemon-Tree identified three potential regulator genes, using confident scores, for the WGCNA module which was associated with osteoclast differentiation: CCR1, MSR1 and SI1 (probability scores respectively 95.30, 62.28, and 34.58). Moreover, detection of differentially connected genes identified various genes previously identified to be associated with obesity in humans and rodents, e.g. CSF1R and MARC2. Conclusions To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply systems biology approaches using porcine adipose tissue RNA-Sequencing data in a genetically characterized porcine model for obesity. We revealed complex networks, pathways, candidate and regulatory genes related to obesity, confirming the complexity of obesity and its association with immune-related disorders and osteoporosis.