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The modern horse (Equus caballus) is the product of over 50 million yrs of evolution. The athletic abilities of the horse have been enhanced during the past 6000 yrs under domestication. Therefore, the horse serves as a valuable model to understand the physiology and molecular mechanisms of adaptive responses to exercise. The structure and function of skeletal muscle show remarkable plasticity to the physical and metabolic challenges following exercise. Here, we reveal an evolutionary layer of responsiveness to exercise-stress in the skeletal muscle of the racing horse. We analysed differentially expressed genes and their co-expression networks in a large-scale RNA-sequence dataset comparing expression before and after exercise. By estimating genome-wide dN/dS ratios using six mammalian genomes, and FST and iHS using re-sequencing data derived from 20 horses, we were able to peel back the evolutionary layers of adaptations to exercise-stress in the horse. We found that the oldest and thickest layer (dN/dS) consists of system-wide tissue and organ adaptations. We further find that, during the period of horse domestication, the older layer (FST) is mainly responsible for adaptations to inflammation and energy metabolism, and the most recent layer (iHS) for neurological system process, cell adhesion, and proteolysis.


Hyeongmin Kim, Taeheon Lee, Woncheoul Park, Jin Woo Lee, Jaemin Kim, Bo-Young Lee, Hyeonju Ahn, Sunjin Moon, Seoae Cho, Kyoung-Tag Do, Heui-Soo Kim, Hak-Kyo Lee, Chang-Kyu Lee, Hong-Sik Kong, Young-Mok Yang, Jongsun Park, Hak-Min Kim, Byung Chul Kim, Seungwoo Hwang, Jong Bhak, Dave Burt, Kyoung-Do Park, Byung-Wook Cho, Heebal Kim. Peeling back the evolutionary layers of molecular mechanisms responsive to exercise-stress in the skeletal muscle of the racing horse. DNA research : an international journal for rapid publication of reports on genes and genomes. 2013 Jun;20(3):287-98

PMID: 23580538

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