Gene expression analysis of blood, liver, and muscle in cattle divergently selected for high and low residual feed intake Academic Article uri icon


  • Improving feed efficiency in cattle is important because it increases profitability by reducing costs, and it also shrinks the environmental footprint of cattle production by decreasing manure and greenhouse gas emissions. Residual feed intake (RFI) is 1 measurement of feed efficiency and is the difference between actual and predicted feed intake. Residual feed intake is a complex trait with moderate heritability, but the genes and biological processes associated with its variation still need to be found. We explored the variation in expression of genes using RNA sequencing to find genes whose expression was associated with RFI and then investigated the pathways that are enriched for these genes. In this study, we used samples from growing Angus bulls (muscle and liver tissues) and lactating Holstein cows (liver tissue and white blood cells) divergently selected for low and high RFI. Within each breed-tissue combination, the correlation between the expression of genes and RFI phenotypes, as well as GEBV, was calculated to determine the genes whose expression was correlated with RFI. There were 16,039 genes expressed in more than 25% of samples in 1 or more tissues. The expression of 6,143 genes was significantly associated with RFI phenotypes, and expression of 2,343 genes was significantly associated with GEBV for RFI ( < 0.05) in at least 1 tissue. The genes whose expression was correlated with RFI phenotype (or GEBV) within each breed-tissue combination were enriched for 158 (78) biological processes (Fisher Exact Statistics for gene-enrichment analysis, EASE score < 0.1) and associated with 13 (13) Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways ( < 0.05 and fold enrichment > 2). These biological processes were related to regulation of transcription, translation, energy generation, cell cycling, apoptosis, and proteolysis. However, the direction of the correlation between RFI and gene expression in some cases reversed between tissues. For instance, low levels of proteolysis in muscle were associated with high efficiency in growing bulls, but high levels of proteolysis in white blood cells were associated with efficiency of milk production in lactating cows.


  • Khansefid, M
  • Millen, CA
  • Chen, Y
  • Pryce, Jennie E
  • Chamberlain, AJ
  • Vander Jagt, CJ
  • Gondro, C
  • Goddard, ME

publication date

  • 2017