Analysis of genes that influence sheep follicular development by different nutrition levels during the luteal phase using expression profiling

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Nutrition is an important factor that regulates reproductive performance of sheep and affects follicle development. However, the correlation between nutrition and follicle development is poorly understood at the molecular level. To study its possible molecular mechanisms, we performed expression profiling of granulosa cells isolated from sheep that were fed different levels of nutrition levels during the luteal phase. To do this, ewes received a maintenance diet (M), and their estrus was synchronized by intravaginal progestogen sponges for 12 days. Ewes were randomly divided into the short-term dietary-restricted group (R; 0.5 × M) and the nutrient-supplemented group (S; 1.5 × M). RNA samples were extracted from granulosa cells. Transcriptome libraries from each group were constructed by Illumina sequencing. Among 18 468 detected genes, 170 genes were significantly differentially expressed, of which 140 genes were upregulated and 30 genes were downregulated in group S relative to group R. These genes could be candidates regulating follicular development in sheep. Gene Ontology, KEGG and clustering analyses were performed. Genes related to oocyte meiosis, such as ADCY7, were upregulated. We identified two important groups of related genes that were upregulated with improved nutrition: one group comprising the genes PTGS2, UCP2 and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and the other group comprising interleukin-1A and interleukin-1B. The genes within each group showed similar expression patterns. Additionally, all five genes are involved in the reproduction process. Quantitative real-time PCR was performed to validate the results of expression profiling. These data in our study are an abundant genomic resource to expand the understanding of the molecular and cellular events underlying follicle development.

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