Comparative transcriptome profiling analysis uncovers novel heterosis-related candidate genes associated with muscular endurance in mules


Heterosis has been widely exploited in animal and plant breeding programs to enhance the productive traits of hybrid progeny from two breeds or species. However, its underlying genetic mechanisms remain enigmatic. Transcriptome profiling analysis can be used as a method for exploring the mechanism of heterosis. Here, we performed genome-wide gene expression and alternative splicing (AS) analyses in different tissues (muscle, brain, and skin) from crosses between donkeys and horses. Our results indicated that 86.1% of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and 87.2% of the differential alternative splicing (DAS) genes showed over-dominance and dominance in muscle. Further analysis showed that the “muscle contraction” pathway was significantly enriched for both the DEGs and DAS genes in mule muscle tissue. Taken together, these DEGs and DAS genes could provide an index for future studies of the genetic and molecular mechanism of heterosis in the hybrids of donkey and horse.

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