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Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, produced by gut microorganisms, play a critical role in energy metabolism and physiology of ruminants as well as in human health. In this study, the temporal effect of elevated butyrate concentrations on the transcriptome of the rumen epithelium was quantified via serial biopsy sampling using RNA-seq technology. The mean number of genes transcribed in the rumen epithelial transcriptome was 17,323.63 ± 277.20 (±SD; N = 24) while the core transcriptome consisted of 15,025 genes. Collectively, 80 genes were identified as being significantly impacted by butyrate infusion across all time points sampled. Maximal transcriptional effect of butyrate on the rumen epithelium was observed at the 72-h infusion when the abundance of 58 genes was altered. The initial reaction of the rumen epithelium to elevated exogenous butyrate may represent a stress response as Gene Ontology (GO) terms identified were predominantly related to responses to bacteria and biotic stimuli. An algorithm for the reconstruction of accurate cellular networks (ARACNE) inferred regulatory gene networks with 113,738 direct interactions in the butyrate-epithelium interactome using a combined cutoff of an error tolerance ( = 0.10) and a stringent P-value threshold of mutual information (5.0 × 1011). Several regulatory networks were controlled by transcription factors, such as CREBBP and TTF2, which were regulated by butyrate. Our findings provide insight into the regulation of butyrate transport and metabolism in the rumen epithelium, which will guide our future efforts in exploiting potential beneficial effect of butyrate in animal well-being and human health.
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The reviewing and editorial management of our paper was timely, thorough, and systematic. In particular the reviewers' comments resulted in a paper significantly more robust than the first version.