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BMC Genomics

, 8:405

First Online: 07 November 2007Received: 03 July 2007Accepted: 07 November 2007


Background:Boar taint is a major obstacle when using uncastrated male pigs for swine production. One of the main compounds causing this taint is androstenone, a pheromone produced in porcine testis. Here we use microarrays to study the expression of thousands of genes simultaneously in testis of high and low androstenone boars. The study allows identification of genes and pathways associated with elevated androstenone levels, which is essential for recognising potential molecular markers for breeding purposes.

Results:Testicular tissue was collected from 60 boars, 30 with extreme high and 30 with extreme low levels of androstenone, from each of the two breeds Duroc and Norwegian Landrace. The samples were hybridised to porcine arrays containing 26,877 cDNA clones, detecting 563 and 160 genes that were differentially expressed p < 0.01 in Duroc and Norwegian Landrace, respectively. Of these significantly up- and down-regulated clones, 72 were found to be common for the two breeds, suggesting the possibility of both general and breed specific mechanisms in regulation of, or response to androstenone levels in boars. Ten genes were chosen for verification of expression patterns by quantitative real competitive PCR and real-time PCR. As expected, our results point towards steroid hormone metabolism and biosynthesis as important biological processes for the androstenone levels, but other potential pathways were identified as well. Among these were oxidoreductase activity, ferric iron binding, iron ion binding and electron transport activities. Genes belonging to the cytochrome P450 and hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase families were highly up-regulated, in addition to several genes encoding different families of conjugation enzymes. Furthermore, a number of genes encoding transcription factors were found both up- and down-regulated. The high number of clones belonging to ferric iron and iron ion binding suggests an importance of these genes, and the association between these pathways and androstenone levels is not previously described.

Conclusion:This study contributes to the understanding of the complex genetic system controlling and responding to androstenone levels in pig testis. The identification of new pathways and genes involved in the biosynthesis and metabolism of androstenone is an important first step towards finding molecular markers to reduce boar taint.

List of abbreviationsDHDuroc High androstenone

NLHNorwegian Landrace High androstenone

DLDuroc Low androstenone

NLLNorwegian Landrace Low androstenone


AKR1C1Aldo-keto reductase family 1, member C1

AKR1C4Aldo-keto reductase family 1, member C4

ALAS15-aminolevulinate synthase

ARandrogen receptor

ARA70androgen receptor

CYB5Cytochrome b5

CYP11A1Cytochrome P450, subfamily XIA, polypeptide 1

CYP17Cytochrome P450 c17

CYP19Cytochrome P450 c19

CYP51Cytochrome P450 51

DHRS8Dehydrogenase-reductase family member 8

DMAPPDimethylallyl diphosphate

EBPEmopamit-binding protein

EEF1A1Translation elongation factor 1 alpha 1

EEF1B2Translation elongation factor 1 beta 2


FTH1Ferritin heavy-chain

FTLFerritin light polypeptide

FSTFisher-s sign test

GOGene ontology

GSTO1Glutathione S-transferase omega

HPRTHypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyltransferase 1

HSDsHydroxysteroid dehydrogenases

HSD17B417-beta-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase IV

HSTHydroxysteroid sulfotransferase

IDI1Isopentenyl-diphosphate delta isomerase

IPPIsopentenyl diphosphate

limmalinear models for microarray analysis

MAP1LC3AMicrotubule-associated protein light chain 3 isoform A

MGST1Glutathione S-transferase

NCOA2Nuclear receptor co-activator 2

NCOA4Nuclear receptor co-activator 4

NR3C2nuclear receptor subfamily 3, group C, member 2

NR5A1Nuclear receptor subfamily 5 group A member 1

PGRMC1Progesterone receptor membrane component 1

POU3F2Class III POU transcription factor

rcPCRreal competitive PCR

SC4MOLSterol-C4-methyl oxidase isoform 1

SF-1Steroidogenic factor 1

SMPD1Sphingomyrlin phosphodiesterase 1

SNPssingle nucleotide polymorphisms

StARSteroidogenic acute regulatory protein


SULT2A1Sulfotransferase family 2A, dehydroepiandrosterone-preferring, member 1

SULT2B1Sulfotransferase family 2A, dehydroepiandrosterone-preffering member 1

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1471-2164-8-405 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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