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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Transformation of metabolism with age and lifestyle in Antarctic seals: a case study of systems biology approach to cross-species microarray experiment

Andrey Ptitsyn1, Amber Schlater2 and Shane Kanatous2*

Author Affiliations

1 Colorado State University Center for Bioinformatics, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA

2 Colorado State University Department of Biology, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2010, 4:133  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-133

Published: 29 September 2010



The metabolic transformation that changes Weddell seal pups born on land into aquatic animals is not only interesting for the study of general biology, but it also provides a model for the acquired and congenital muscle disorders which are associated with oxygen metabolism in skeletal muscle. However, the analysis of gene expression in seals is hampered by the lack of specific microarrays and the very limited annotation of known Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) genes.


Muscle samples from newborn, juvenile, and adult Weddell seals were collected during an Antarctic expedition. Extracted RNA was hybridized on Affymetrix Human Expression chips. Preliminary studies showed a detectable signal from at least 7000 probe sets present in all samples and replicates. Relative expression levels for these genes was used for further analysis of the biological pathways implicated in the metabolism transformation which occurs in the transition from newborn, to juvenile, to adult seals. Cytoskeletal remodeling, WNT signaling, FAK signaling, hypoxia-induced HIF1 activation, and insulin regulation were identified as being among the most important biological pathways involved in transformation.


In spite of certain losses in specificity and sensitivity, the cross-species application of gene expression microarrays is capable of solving challenging puzzles in biology. A Systems Biology approach based on gene interaction patterns can compensate adequately for the lack of species-specific genomics information.