Identification of Differentially Expressed Genes and Pathways for Myofiber Characteristics in Soleus Muscles between Chicken Breeds Differing in Meat Quality

In the modern chicken industry, fast-growing broilers have undergone strong artificial selection for muscle growth, which has led to remarkable phenotypic variations compared with slow-growing chickens. However, the molecular mechanism underlying these phenotypes differences remains unknown. In this study, a systematic identification of candidate genes and new pathways related to myofiber development and composition in chicken Soleus muscle (SOL) has been made using gene expression profiles of two distinct breeds: Qingyuan partridge (QY), a slow-growing Chinese breed possessing high meat quality and Cobb 500 (CB), a commercial fast-growing broiler line. Agilent cDNA microarray analyses were conducted to determine gene expression profiles of soleus muscle sampled at sexual maturity age of QY (112 d) and CB (42 d). The 1318 genes with at least 2-fold differences were identified (P < 0.05, FDR <0.05, FC ≥ 2) in SOL muscles of QY and CB chickens. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) related to muscle development, energy metabolism or lipid metabolism processes were examined further in each breed based on Gene Ontology (GO) analysis, and 11 genes involved in these processes were selected for further validation studies by qRT-PCR. In addition, based on KEGG pathway analysis of DEGs in both QY and CB chickens, it was found that in addition to pathways affecting myogenic fibre-type development and differentiation (pathways for Hedgehog & Calcium signaling), energy metabolism (Phosphatidylinositol signaling system, VEGF signaling pathway, Purine metabolism, Pyrimidine metabolism) were also enriched and might form a network with pathways related to muscle metabolism to influence the development of myofibers. This study is the first stage in the understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying variations in poultry meat quality. Large scale analyses are now required to validate the role of the genes identified and ultimately to find molecular markers that can be used for selection or to optimize rearing practices.