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The expression of estrous (sexually receptive) behavior (EB), a key fertility trait in dairy cows, has been declining over the past few decades both in intensity and duration. Improved knowledge of the genomic factors underlying EB, which is currently lacking, may lead to novel applications to enhance fertility. Our objective was to identify genes and biological processes shared among the bovine anterior pituitary (AP) and four brain areas that act together to regulate EB by investigating networks of coexpressed genes between these tissues. We used a systems biology approach called weighted gene coexpression network analysis for defining gene coexpression networks using gene expression data from the following tissues collected from 14 cows at estrus: AP, dorsal hypothalamus (DH), ventral hypothalamus (VH), amygdala (AM), and hippocampus (HC). Consensus modules of coexpressed genes were identified between the networks for the AM-DH, HC-DH, VH-DH, AP-DH, and AM-HC tissue pairs. The correlation between the module's eigengene (weighted average gene expression profile) and levels of EB exhibited by the experimental cows were tested. Estrous behavior-cor-related modules were found enriched for gene ontology terms like glial cell development and regulation of neural projection development as well as for Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway terms related to brain degenerative diseases. General cellular processes like oxidative phosphorylation and ribosome and biosynthetic processes were found enriched in several correlated modules, indicating increased transcription and protein synthesis. Stimulation of ribosomal RNA synthesis is known from rodent studies to be a primary event in the activation of neuronal cells and pathways involved in female reproductive behavior and this precedes the estrogen-driven expansion of dendrites and synapses. Similar processes also operate in cows to affect EB. Hub genes within EB-correlated modules (e.g. NEFL, NDRG2, GAP43, THY1, and TCF7L2, among others) are strong candidates among genes regulating EB expression. The study improved our understanding of the genomic regulation of EB in dairy cows by providing new insights into genes and biological processes shared among the bovine AP and brain areas acting together to regulate EB. The new knowledge could lead to the development of novel management strategies to monitor and improve reproductive performance in dairy cows (for example, biomarkers for estrus detection).
|Journal||Journal of Dairy Science|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|
- expression patterns
- quantitative measure
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