Background: Marek's disease virus (MDV) is an oncogenic herpesvirus that can cause T-cell lymphomas in chicken. Long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) is strongly associated with various cancers and many other diseases. In chickens, lncRNAs have not been comprehensively identified. Here, we profiled mRNA and lncRNA repertoires in three groups of spleens from MDV-infected and non-infected chickens, including seven tumorous spleens (TS) from MDV-infected chickens, five spleens from the survivors (SS) without lesions after MDV infection, and five spleens from noninfected chickens (NS), to explore the underlying mechanism of host resistance in Marek's disease (MD).
Results: By using a precise lncRNA identification pipeline, we identified 1315 putative lncRNAs and 1166 known lncRNAs in spleen tissue. Genomic features of putative lncRNAs were characterized. Differentially expressed (DE) mRNAs, putative lncRNAs, and known lncRNAs were profiled among three groups. We found that several specific intergroup differentially expressed genes were involved in important biological processes and pathways, including B cell activation and the Wnt signaling pathway; some of these genes were also found to be the hub genes in the co-expression network analyzed by WGCNA. Network analysis depicted both intergenic correlation and correlation between genes and MD traits. Five DE lncRNAs including MSTRG.360.1, MSTRG.6725.1, MSTRG.6754.1, MSTRG.15539.1, and MSTRG.7747.5 strongly correlated with MD-resistant candidate genes, such as IGF-I, CTLA4, HDAC9, SWAP70, CD72, JCHAIN, CXCL12, and CD8B, suggesting that lncRNAs may affect MD resistance and tumorigenesis in chicken spleens through their target genes.
Conclusions: Our results provide both transcriptomic and epigenetic insights on MD resistance and its pathological mechanism. The comprehensive lncRNA and mRNA transcriptomes in MDV-infected chicken spleens were profiled. Co-expression analysis identified integrated lncRNA-mRNA and gene-gene interaction networks, implying that hub genes or lncRNAs exert critical influence on MD resistance and tumorigenesis.
Keywords: Chicken; Long noncoding RNA; MD resistance; Marek’s disease.