Characterization of the pars tuberalis and hypothalamus transcriptome in female sheep under different reproductive stages
For understanding the molecular events underlying the follicular (F) and luteal (L) phases of estrous cycle, and anestrous (A) phase, the pars tuberalis (PT), and hypothalamus (HT) transcriptomes of 21 ewes were studied. In HT, 72 and 3 differential expression genes (DEGs) were found when comparing F vs. A and L vs. A, respectively. In PT, 6 and 4 DEGs were found in F vs. A and L vs. A comparisons, respectively. Enrichment analysis for DEGs between the F and A phases in the HT revealed significant clusters, mainly associated with actin-binding, and cytoskeleton, that are related to neural plasticity modulated by gonadal steroid hormones, as well as with oxytocin signaling. We found that DEGs in PT had higher differences in expression levels than those found in HT. In this sense, the ITLN was highly upregulated in the F and L vs. A phases, being MRPL57 and IRX4 highly downregulated in L vs. A comparison. The DDC gene in PT, related to LH regulation, was upregulated in the F phase. The gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed multiple pathways related to neurotransmission and neuronal plasticity. Our study reveals new candidate genes involved in the reproductive stages’ transitions in seasonal sheep.