In this study, mRNA-Seq was used to characterize and compare the leukocyte transcriptomes from two taurine breeds (Holstein and Jersey), and one indicine breed (Cholistani). At the genomic level, we identified breed-specific base changes in protein coding regions. Among 7,793,425 coding bases, only 165 differed between Holstein and Jersey, and 3,383 (0.04%) differed between Holstein and Cholistani, 817 (25%) of which resulted in amino acid changes in 627 genes. At the transcriptional level, we assembled transcripts and estimated their abundances including those from more than 3,000 unannotated intergeneic regions. Differential gene expression analysis showed a high similarity between Holstein and Jersey, and a much greater difference between the taurine breeds and the indicine breed. We identified gene ontology pathways that were systematically altered, including the electron transport chain and immune response pathways that may contribute to different levels of heat tolerance and disease resistance in taurine and indicine breeds. At the post-transcriptional level, sequencing mRNA allowed us to identify a number of genes undergoing differential alternative splicing among different breeds. This study provided a high-resolution survey of the variation between bovine transcriptomes at different levels and may provide important biological insights into the phenotypic differentiation among cattle breeds.
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