Transcriptomics analysis of porcine caudal dorsal root ganglia in tail amputated pigs shows long-term effects on many pain-associated genes

DA Sandercock*, Mark Barnett, Jennifer Coe, Alison Downing, Ajit Nirmal, Pierpaolo Di Giminiani, Sandra Edwards, Tom Freeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Tail amputation by tail docking or as an extreme consequence of tail biting in commercial pig production potentially has serious implications for animal welfare. Tail amputation causes peripheral nerve injury that might be associated with lasting chronic pain. The aim of this study was to investigate the short- and long-term effects of tail amputation in pigs on caudal DRG gene expression at different stages of development, particularly in relation to genes associated with nociception and pain. Microarrays were used to analyse whole DRG transcriptomes from tail amputated and sham-treated pigs 1, 8 and 16 weeks following tail treatment at either 3 or 63 days of age (8 pigs/treatment/age/time after treatment; n=96). Tail amputation induced marked changes in gene expression (up and down) compared to sham-treated intact controls for all treatment ages and time points after tail treatment. Sustained changes in gene expression in tail amputated pigs were still evident four months after tail injury. Gene correlation network analysis revealed two coexpression clusters associated with amputation: Cluster A (759 down-regulated) and Cluster B (273 up-regulated) genes. Gene ontology (GO) enrichment analysis identified 124 genes in Cluster A and 61 genes in Cluster B associated with both ‘inflammatory pain’ and ‘neuropathic pain’. In Cluster A, gene family members of ion channels e.g. voltage-gated potassium channels (VGPC) and receptors e.g. GABA receptors, were significantly down-regulated compared to shams, both of which are linked to increased peripheral nerve excitability after axotomy. Up-regulated gene families in Cluster B were linked to transcriptional regulation, inflammation, tissue remodelling and regulatory neuropeptide activity. These findings, demonstrate that tail amputation causes sustained transcriptomic expression changes in caudal DRG cells involved in inflammatory and neuropathic pain pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Article number314
Number of pages27
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Early online date18 Sept 2019
Publication statusFirst published - 18 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note



  • Pig
  • Tail amputation
  • Tail docking
  • Tail biting
  • Animal pain model
  • animal welfare
  • Mechanical hyperalgesia
  • Mechanical nociceptive thresholds
  • Painful procedures
  • Pain assessment
  • Pain sensation
  • Inflammatory pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Traumatic neuroma
  • Microarray
  • Gene expression
  • Transcriptomics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Gene ontology
  • Gene correlation network analysis


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