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Composite transcriptome assembly of RNA-seq data in a sheep model for delayed bone healing

Marten Jäger12, Claus-Eric Ott1, Johannes Grünhagen1, Jochen Hecht23, Hanna Schell24, Stefan Mundlos123*, Georg N Duda24, Peter N Robinson123* and Jasmin Lienau24

Author affiliations

1 Institute for Medical Genetics, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburgerplatz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany

2 Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT), Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburgerplatz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany

3 Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Ihnestrasse 73, 14195 Berlin, Germany

4 Julius Wolff Institute and Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Augustenburgerplatz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:158  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-158

Published: 24 March 2011



The sheep is an important model organism for many types of medically relevant research, but molecular genetic experiments in the sheep have been limited by the lack of knowledge about ovine gene sequences.


Prior to our study, mRNA sequences for only 1,556 partial or complete ovine genes were publicly available. Therefore, we developed a composite de novo transcriptome assembly method for next-generation sequence data to combine known ovine mRNA and EST sequences, mRNA sequences from mouse and cow, and sequences assembled de novo from short read RNA-Seq data into a composite reference transcriptome, and identified transcripts from over 12 thousand previously undescribed ovine genes. Gene expression analysis based on these data revealed substantially different expression profiles in standard versus delayed bone healing in an ovine tibial osteotomy model. Hundreds of transcripts were differentially expressed between standard and delayed healing and between the time points of the standard and delayed healing groups. We used the sheep sequences to design quantitative RT-PCR assays with which we validated the differential expression of 26 genes that had been identified by RNA-seq analysis. A number of clusters of characteristic expression profiles could be identified, some of which showed striking differences between the standard and delayed healing groups. Gene Ontology (GO) analysis showed that the differentially expressed genes were enriched in terms including extracellular matrix, cartilage development, contractile fiber, and chemokine activity.


Our results provide a first atlas of gene expression profiles and differentially expressed genes in standard and delayed bone healing in a large-animal model and provide a number of clues as to the shifts in gene expression that underlie delayed bone healing. In the course of our study, we identified transcripts of 13,987 ovine genes, including 12,431 genes for which no sequence information was previously available. This information will provide a basis for future molecular research involving the sheep as a model organism.