Mammal Research

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 235–248 | Cite as

Global analysis of tissue-differential gene expression patterns and functional regulation of rapid antler growth

  • Baojin Yao
  • Mei Zhang
  • Hongwei Gao
  • Bocheng Lu
  • Xiangyang Leng
  • Daqing ZhaoEmail author
  • Yu ZhaoEmail author
Original Article


Deer antlers are unique mammalian appendages that grow faster than any other known organ. During the rapid growth stage at 60 days after casting the previous antler, the maximal antler growth rate is up to or even more than 2 cm/day. Antler growth is driven by the growth center located in the antler tip. The growth center consists of several tissue layers from distal to proximal, including the skin, mesenchyme, precartilage, and cartilage. To analyze the gene expression patterns of the antler growth center in a tissue-differential manner and explore the molecular mechanism responsible for rapid antler growth, we used an RNA-Seq method to analyze gene expression patterns in different tissues of the Sika deer antler growth center during the rapid growth stage. We demonstrated considerable diversity in the expression levels of functional genes among different tissues within the antler growth center. These tissue-differentially expressed genes included transcription factors, growth factors, and extracellular matrix proteins. We identified a series of genes that contribute to chondrogenesis from mesenchymal cell condensation to chondrocyte differentiation. The genes identified in the antler growth center at the rapid growth stage provide valuable insight into the physiological mechanisms underlying rapid antler growth.


Deer antler Different tissues Functional genes Growth center Rapid growth RNA-Seq 



This work was financially supported through grants from the Science and Technology Development Project of Jilin Province (Grant number 20170520044JH), the Science and Technology Project of Jilin Provincial Education Department (Grant number JJKH20170721KJ), the TCM Clinical Research Center for Bone diseases of Jilin Province (Grant number 20180623048TC), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 81702136).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

13364_2018_394_Fig2_ESM.png (1.2 mb)
Fig. S1

Histological structure of antler tips (Li et al. 2002). a Antler ready to be harvested, and line indicating amount of tip removed. b Tip after being cut sagittally. c Layers as identified by the distinct morphological markers and marked by the stitches. d BrdU incorporation in the dermis (D), outer reserve mesenchyme (ORM), and inner reserve mesenchyme (IRM). e Histological section of the antler tip with holes from the stitches evident (arrows). D, dermis; RM, reservemesenchyme; PC, precartilage; TZ, transition zone; C, cartilage. (PNG 1259 kb)

13364_2018_394_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1.6 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIF 1643 kb)
13364_2018_394_Fig3_ESM.png (997 kb)
Fig. S2

Histogram of GO classification of assembled sequences. The results were grouped into three main categories: biological process, cellular component, and molecular function. The ordinate is the name of the GO term, while the abscissa is the number of genes belonging to this GO term. (PNG 996 kb)

13364_2018_394_MOESM2_ESM.tif (1.1 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 1141 kb)
13364_2018_394_Fig4_ESM.png (2.7 mb)
Fig. S3

Histogram of KEGG pathway annotation of assembled sequences. The results were grouped into six main categories: cellular processes, environmental information processing, genetic information processing, metabolism, and organismal systems. The ordinate is the name of the pathway, while the abscissa is the number of genes belonging to this pathway. (PNG 2775 kb)

13364_2018_394_MOESM3_ESM.tif (4.9 mb)
High-resolution image (TIF 5036 kb)


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jilin Ginseng AcademyChangchun University of Chinese MedicineChangchunChina
  2. 2.Innovation Practice CenterChangchun University of Chinese MedicineChangchunChina
  3. 3.The Affiliated Hospital of Changchun University of Chinese MedicineChangchunChina

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