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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033763. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

Comparison of muscle transcriptome between pigs with divergent meat quality phenotypes identifies genes related to muscle metabolism and structure.

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  • 1INRA, UMR1348 Physiologie, Environnement et Génétique pour l'Animal et les Systèmes d'Elevage (PEGASE), Saint Gilles, France.



Meat quality depends on physiological processes taking place in muscle tissue, which could involve a large pattern of genes associated with both muscle structural and metabolic features. Understanding the biological phenomena underlying muscle phenotype at slaughter is necessary to uncover meat quality development. Therefore, a muscle transcriptome analysis was undertaken to compare gene expression profiles between two highly contrasted pig breeds, Large White (LW) and Basque (B), reared in two different housing systems themselves influencing meat quality. LW is the most predominant breed used in pig industry, which exhibits standard meat quality attributes. B is an indigenous breed with low lean meat and high fat contents, high meat quality characteristics, and is genetically distant from other European pig breeds.


Transcriptome analysis undertaken using a custom 15 K microarray, highlighted 1233 genes differentially expressed between breeds (multiple-test adjusted P-value<0.05), out of which 635 were highly expressed in the B and 598 highly expressed in the LW pigs. No difference in gene expression was found between housing systems. Besides, expression level of 12 differentially expressed genes quantified by real-time RT-PCR validated microarray data. Functional annotation clustering emphasized four main clusters associated to transcriptome breed differences: metabolic processes, skeletal muscle structure and organization, extracellular matrix, lysosome, and proteolysis, thereby highlighting many genes involved in muscle physiology and meat quality development.


Altogether, these results will contribute to a better understanding of muscle physiology and of the biological and molecular processes underlying meat quality. Besides, this study is a first step towards the identification of molecular markers of pork quality and the subsequent development of control tools.

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