Background: Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is a gram-negative bacterium that can colonise the gut of humans and several species of food producing farm animals to cause enteric or septicaemic salmonellosis. While many studies have looked into the host genetic response to Salmonella infection, relatively few have used correlation of shedding traits with gene expression patterns to identify genes whose variable expression among different individuals may be associated with differences in Salmonella clearance and resistance. Here, we aimed to identify porcine genes and gene co-expression networks that differentiate distinct responses to Salmonella challenge with respect to faecal Salmonella shedding.
Results: Peripheral blood transcriptome profiles from 16 pigs belonging to extremes of the trait of faecal Salmonella shedding counts recorded up to 20 days post-inoculation (low shedders (LS), n = 8; persistent shedders (PS), n = 8) were generated using RNA-sequencing from samples collected just before (day 0) and two days after (day 2) Salmonella inoculation. Weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) of day 0 samples identified four modules of co-expressed genes significantly correlated with Salmonella shedding counts upon future challenge. Two of those modules consisted largely of innate immunity related genes, many of which were significantly up-regulated at day 2 post-inoculation. The connectivity at both days and the mean gene-wise expression levels at day 0 of the genes within these modules were higher in networks constructed using LS samples alone than those using PS alone. Genes within these modules include those previously reported to be involved in Salmonella resistance such as SLC11A1 (formerly NRAMP1), TLR4, CD14 and CCR1 and those for which an association with Salmonella is novel, for example, SIGLEC5, IGSF6 and TNFSF13B.
Conclusions: Our analysis integrates gene co-expression network analysis, gene-trait correlations and differential expression to provide new candidate regulators of Salmonella shedding in pigs. The comparatively higher expression (also confirmed in an independent dataset) and the significantly higher connectivity of genes within the Salmonella shedding associated modules in LS compared to PS even before Salmonella challenge may be factors that contribute to the decreased faecal Salmonella shedding observed in LS following challenge.