Background: This work describes the first genome-wide analysis of the transcriptional landscape of the pig. A new porcine Affymetrix expression array was designed in order to provide comprehensive coverage of the known pig transcriptome. The new array was used to generate a genome-wide expression atlas of pig tissues derived from 62 tissue/cell types. These data were subjected to network correlation analysis and clustering.
Results: The analysis presented here provides a detailed functional clustering of the pig transcriptome where transcripts are grouped according to their expression pattern, so one can infer the function of an uncharacterized gene from the company it keeps and the locations in which it is expressed. We describe the overall transcriptional signatures present in the tissue atlas, where possible assigning those signatures to specific cell populations or pathways. In particular, we discuss the expression signatures associated with the gastrointestinal tract, an organ that was sampled at 15 sites along its length and whose biology in the pig is similar to human. We identify sets of genes that define specialized cellular compartments and region-specific digestive functions. Finally, we performed a network analysis of the transcription factors expressed in the gastrointestinal tract and demonstrate how they sub-divide into functional groups that may control cellular gastrointestinal development.
Conclusions: As an important livestock animal with a physiology that is more similar than mouse to man, we provide a major new resource for understanding gene expression with respect to the known physiology of mammalian tissues and cells. The data and analyses are available on the websites http://biogps.org and http://www.macrophages.com/pig-atlas.