Expression of mitochondrial protein genes encoded by nuclear and mitochondrial genomes correlate with energy metabolism in dairy cattle

Jigme Dorji, Christy J. Vander Jagt, Josie B. Garner, Leah C. Marett, Brett Mason, Coralie M. Reich, Ruidong Xiang, Emily Clark, Benjamin G. Cocks, Amanda Chamberlain, Iona M. MacLeod, Hans D. Daetwyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background : Mutations in the mitochondrial genome have been implicated in mitochondrial disease, often characterized by impaired cellular energy metabolism. Cellular energy metabolism in mitochondria involves mitochondrial proteins (MP) from both the nuclear (NuMP) and mitochondrial (MtMP) genomes. The expression of MP genes in tissues may be tissue specific to meet varying specific energy demands across the tissues. Currently, the characteristics of MP gene expression in tissues of dairy cattle are not well understood. In this study, we profile the expression of MP genes in 29 adult and six foetal tissues in dairy cattle using RNA sequencing and gene expression analyses: particularly differential gene expression and co-expression network analyses. ResultsMP genes were differentially expressed (DE; over-expressed or under-expressed) across tissues in cattle. All 29 tissues showed DE NuMP genes in varying proportions of over-expression and under-expression. On the other hand, DE of MtMP genes was observed in <50% of tissues and notably MtMP genes within a tissue was either all over-expressed or all under-expressed. A high proportion of NuMP (up to 60%) and MtMP ( up to 100%) genes were over-expressed in tissues with expected high metabolic demand; heart, skeletal muscles and tongue, and under-expressed (up to 45% of NuMP, 77% of MtMP genes) in tissues with expected low metabolic rates; leukocytes, thymus, and lymph nodes. These tissues also invariably had the expression of all MtMP genes in the direction of dominant NuMP genes expression. The NuMP and MtMP genes were highly co-expressed across tissues and co-expression of genes in a cluster were non-random and functionally enriched for energy generation pathway. The differential gene expression and co-expression patterns were validated in independent cow and sheep datasets. Conclusions The results of this study support the concept that there are biological interaction of MP genes from the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes given their over-expression in tissues with high energy demand and co-expression in tissues. This highlights the importance of considering MP genes from both genomes in future studies related to mitochondrial functions and traits related to energy metabolism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Genomics
Early online date19 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2020


  • mitochondria
  • energy metabolism
  • differential gene expression
  • gene co-expression
  • cattle


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