Cis-natural antisense transcripts (cis-NATs) are a new class of RNAs identified in various species. However, the biological functions of cis-NATs are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the transcriptional characteristics and functions of cis-NATs in the muscle tissue of lean Landrace and indigenous fatty Lantang pigs. In total, 3,306 cis-NATs of 2,469 annotated genes were identified in the muscle tissue of pigs. More than 1,300 cis-NATs correlated with their sense genes at the transcriptional level, and approximately 80% of them were co-expressed in the two breeds. Furthermore, over 1,200 differentially expressed cis-NATs were identified during muscle development. Function annotation showed that the cis-NATs participated in muscle development mainly by co-expressing with genes involved in energy metabolic pathways, including citrate cycle (TCA cycle), glycolysis or gluconeogenesis, mitochondrial activation and so on. Moreover, these cis-NATs and their sense genes abruptly increased at the transition from the late fetal stages to the early postnatal stages and then decreased along with muscle development. In conclusion, the cis-NATs in the muscle tissue of pigs were identified and determined to be mainly co-expressed with their sense genes. The co-expressed cis-NATs and their sense gene were primarily related to energy metabolic pathways during muscle development in pigs. Our results offered novel evidence on the roles of cis-NATs during the muscle development of pigs.
Keywords: Cis-natural antisense transcript; energy metabolic pathway; muscle; pig.