Cold-induced thermogenesis plays an important role in the survival of lambs exposed to low air temperatures. The liver produces and mediates heat production in mammals; however, to date, little is known about the role of liver genes in cold-induced thermogenesis in lambs. In this study, the difference in the liver transcriptome between Altay and Hu ewe lambs was compared. Because of different backgrounds of the two breeds, we hypothesized that the transcriptome profiles of the liver would differ between breeds when exposed to cold. Cold-exposed Altay lambs activated 8 candidate genes (ACTA1, MYH1, MYH2, MYL1, MYL2, TNNC1, TNNC2, and TNNT3) involved in muscle shivering thermogenesis; 3 candidate genes (ATP2A1, SLN, and CKM) involved in muscle nonshivering thermogenesis related to the Ca2+ signal and creatine cycle; and 6 candidate genes (PFKM, ALDOC, PGAM2, ENO2, ENO3, and ENO4) involved in enhancing liver metabolism. In contrast, the liver may not act as the main tissue for thermogenesis in cold-exposed Hu lambs. We concluded that Altay lambs rely on liver-mediated shivering and nonshivering thermogenesis by muscle tissue to a greater extent than Hu lambs. Results from this study could provide a theoretical foundation for the breeding and production of cold-resistant lambs.
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