The present study aimed to explore the lactation-induced changes in hepatic gene expression in sows (Sus scrofa) during lactation. Using a porcine whole-genome microarray a total of 632 differentially expressed genes in the liver of lactating compared to non-lactating sows could be identified. Enrichment analysis revealed that the differentially expressed genes were mainly involved in fatty acid metabolism, pyruvate metabolism, glutathione metabolism, glycine, serine and threonine metabolism, citrate cycle, glycerophospholipid metabolism, PPAR signaling, and focal adhesion. The most striking observation with respect to intermediary metabolism was that genes involved in fatty acid catabolism, the catabolism of gluconeogenic amino acids, the citrate cycle and the respiratory chain were up-regulated in the liver of sows during lactation. With respect to immune response, it could be demonstrated that genes encoding acute phase proteins and genes involved in tissue repair were up-regulated and genes encoding adhesion molecules were down-regulated in the liver of sows during lactation. The results indicate that energy-generating pathways and pathways involved in the delivery of gluconeogenic substrates are induced in sow liver during lactation. The alterations of expression of genes encoding proteins involved in immune response suggest that lactation in sows may cause an adaptive immune response that possibly counteracts hepatic inflammation.
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