RNA-seq analysis identifies cytoskeletal structural genes and pathways for meat quality in beef

PLoS One. 2020 Nov 11;15(11):e0240895. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240895. eCollection 2020.


RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has allowed for transcriptional profiling of biological systems through the identification of differentially expressed (DE) genes and pathways. A total of 80 steers with extreme phenotypes were selected from the University of Florida multibreed Angus-Brahman herd. The average slaughter age was 12.91±8.69 months. Tenderness, juiciness and connective tissue assessed by sensory panel, along with marbling, Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) and cooking loss, were measured in longissimus dorsi muscle. Total RNA was extracted from muscle and one RNA-seq library per sample was constructed, multiplexed, and sequenced based on protocols by Illumina HiSeq-3000 platform to generate 2×101 bp paired-end reads. The overall read mapping rate using the Btau_4.6.1 reference genome was 63%. A total of 8,799 genes were analyzed using two different methodologies, an expression association and a DE analysis. A gene and exon expression association analysis was carried out using a meat quality index on all 80 samples as a continuous response variable. The expression of 208 genes and 3,280 exons from 1,565 genes was associated with the meat quality index (p-value ≤ 0.05). A gene and isoform DE evaluation was performed analyzing two groups with extreme WBSF, tenderness and marbling. A total of 676 (adjusted p-value≤0.05), 70 (adjusted p-value≤0.1) and 198 (adjusted p-value≤0.1) genes were DE for WBSF, tenderness and marbling, respectively. A total of 106 isoforms from 98 genes for WBSF, 13 isoforms from 13 genes for tenderness and 43 isoforms from 42 genes for marbling (FDR≤0.1) were DE. Cytoskeletal and transmembrane anchoring genes and pathways were identified in the expression association, DE and the gene enrichment analyses; these proteins can have a direct effect on meat quality. Cytoskeletal proteins and transmembrane anchoring molecules can influence meat quality by allowing cytoskeletal interaction with myocyte and organelle membranes, contributing to cytoskeletal structure and architecture maintenance postmortem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Quality Control*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Red Meat / analysis*
  • Red Meat / standards
  • Selective Breeding / genetics
  • United States


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins

Grant support

RM; Financial support provided by Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Hatch FLA-ANS-005548 (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_faes) and Florida Cattlemen’s Association (https://www.floridacattlemen.org/) – Beef Enhancement Fund Award 022962. The funders were not involved in the study design or collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data.