• The application of transcriptomic data in the authentication of beef derived from contrasting production systems

      Sweeney, Torres; Lejeune, Alexandre; Moloney, Aidan; Monahan, Frank J; Gettigan, Paul M; Downey, Gerard; Park, Stephen D. E.; Ryan, Marion T; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Biomed Central, 2016-09-21)
      Background Differences between cattle production systems can influence the nutritional and sensory characteristics of beef, in particular its fatty acid (FA) composition. As beef products derived from pasture-based systems can demand a higher premium from consumers, there is a need to understand the biological characteristics of pasture produced meat and subsequently to develop methods of authentication for these products. Here, we describe an approach to authentication that focuses on differences in the transcriptomic profile of muscle from animals finished in different systems of production of practical relevance to the Irish beef industry. The objectives of this study were to identify a panel of differentially expressed (DE) genes/networks in the muscle of cattle raised outdoors on pasture compared to animals raised indoors on a concentrate based diet and to subsequently identify an optimum panel which can classify the meat based on a production system. Results A comparison of the muscle transcriptome of outdoor/pasture-fed and Indoor/concentrate-fed cattle resulted in the identification of 26 DE genes. Functional analysis of these genes identified two significant networks (1: Energy Production, Lipid Metabolism, Small Molecule Biochemistry; and 2: Lipid Metabolism, Molecular Transport, Small Molecule Biochemistry), both of which are involved in FA metabolism. The expression of selected up-regulated genes in the outdoor/pasture-fed animals correlated positively with the total n-3 FA content of the muscle. The pathway and network analysis of the DE genes indicate that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) and FYN/AMPK could be implicit in the regulation of these alterations to the lipid profile. In terms of authentication, the expression profile of three DE genes (ALAD, EIF4EBP1 and NPNT) could almost completely separate the samples based on production system (95 % authentication for animals on pasture-based and 100 % for animals on concentrate- based diet) in this context. Conclusions The majority of DE genes between muscle of the outdoor/pasture-fed and concentrate-fed cattle were related to lipid metabolism and in particular β-oxidation. In this experiment the combined expression profiles of ALAD, EIF4EBP1 and NPNT were optimal in classifying the muscle transcriptome based on production system. Given the overall lack of comparable studies and variable concordance with those that do exist, the use of transcriptomic data in authenticating production systems requires more exploration across a range of contexts and breeds.