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https://doi.org/10.5713/ab.23.0548    [Accepted] Published online April 25, 2024.
Weighted gene co-expression network analysis identifies important modules and hub genes involved in the regulation of breast muscle yield in broilers
Xing Guo1  , Hao Wang1  , Meng Liu1  , Jin-Mei Xu1  , Ya-Nan Liu1  , Hong Zhang1  , Xin-Xin He1  , Jiang-Xian Wang1  , Wei Wei1  , Da-Long Ren1  , Run-shen Jiang1,* 
College of Animal Science and Technology, Anhui Agricultural University, Hefei 230036, China
Correspondence:  Run-shen Jiang, Tel: +86-551-5785515, Fax: +86-551-5785515, Email: jiangrunshen@ahau.edu.cn
Received: 28 December 2023   • Revised: 24 January 2024   • Accepted: 10 March 2024
Increasing breast meat production is one of the primary goals of the broiler industry. Over the past few decades, tremendous progress has been made in genetic selection and the identification of candidate genes for improving the breast muscle mass. However, the molecular network contributing to muscle production traits in chickens still needs to be further illuminated.
A total of 150 1-day-old male 817 broilers were reared in a floor litter system. At the market age of 50 d, eighteen healthy 817 broilers were slaughtered and the left pectoralis major muscle sample from each bird was collected for RNA-seq sequencing. The birds were then plucked and eviscerated and the whole breast muscle was removed and weighed. Breast muscle yield was calculated as the ratio of the breast muscle weight to the eviscerated weight. To identify the co-expression networks and hub genes contributing to breast muscle yield in chickens, we performed weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) based on the 18 transcriptome datasets of pectoralis major muscle from eighteen 817 broilers.
The WGCNA analysis classified all co-expressed genes in the pectoral muscle of 817 broilers into 44 modules. Among these modules, the turquoise and skyblue3 modules were found to be most significantly positively (r=0.78, p=1e-04) and negatively (r=-0.57, p=0.01) associated with breast meat yield, respectively. Further analysis identified several hub genes (e.g., DLX3, SH3RF2, TPM1, CAV3, MYF6, and CFL2) that involved in muscle structure and muscle development were identified as potential regulators of breast meat production.
The present study has advanced our understanding of the molecular regulatory networks contributing to muscle growth and breast muscle production and will contribute to the molecular breeding of chickens in the future.
Keywords: Breast Muscle Yield; Chicken; Hub Genes; WGCNA
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