RNA-Seq analysis in giant pandas reveals the differential expression of multiple genes involved in cataract formation

BMC Genom Data. 2021 Oct 27;22(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s12863-021-00996-x.


Background: The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is an endangered mammalian species native to China. Fewer than 2500 giant pandas are known to exist, many of which are bred in captivity as a means to preserve and repopulate the species. Like other captive mammals, giant pandas acquire age-related cataracts, reducing their quality of life. Recent comparative genome-wide methylation analysis revealed 110 differentially methylated genes associated with cataract formation including six also associated with the formation of age-related cataracts in humans.

Results: To investigate the pathological pathway in greater detail, here we used RNA-Seq analysis to investigate the differential expression profiles of genes in three giant pandas with cataracts and three healthy controls. We identified more than 700 differentially expressed genes, 29 of which were selected for further analysis based on their low q-value. We found that many of the genes encoded regulatory and signaling proteins associated with the control of cell growth, migration, differentiation and apoptosis, supporting previous research indicating a key role for apoptosis in cataract formation.

Conclusion: The identification of genes involved in the formation of age-related cataracts could facilitate the development of predictive markers, preventative measures and even new therapies to improve the life of captive animals.

Keywords: Cataracts; Giant panda, endangered mammals; RNA-Seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cataract / genetics*
  • Endangered Species
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • RNA-Seq*
  • Ursidae / genetics*