Interpretation of gene array data presents many potential pitfalls in adult tissues. Gene array techniques applied to fetal tissues present additional confounding pitfalls. The left lobe of the fetal liver is supplied with blood containing more oxygen than the right lobe. Since synthetic activity and cell function are oxygen dependent, we hypothesized major differences in mRNA expression between the fetal right and left liver lobes. Our aim was to demonstrate the need to evaluate RNA samples from both lobes. We performed whole genome expression profiling on left and right liver lobe RNA from six 90-day gestation baboon fetuses (term 180 days). Comparing right with left, we found 875 differentially expressed genes - 312 genes were up-regulated and 563 down-regulated. Pathways for damaged DNA binding, endonuclease activity, interleukin binding and receptor activity were up-regulated in right lobe; ontological pathways related to cell signalling, cell organization, cell biogenesis, development, intracellular transport, phospholipid metabolism, protein biosynthesis, protein localization, protein metabolism, translational regulation and vesicle mediated transport were down-regulated in right lobe. Molecular pathway analysis showed down-regulation of pathways related to heat shock protein binding, ion channel and transporter activities, oxygen binding and transporter activities, translation initiation and translation regulator activities. Genes involved in amino acid biosynthesis, lipid biosynthesis and oxygen transport were also differentially expressed. This is the first demonstration of RNA differences between the two lobes of the fetal liver. The data support the argument that a complete interpretation of gene expression in the developing liver requires data from both lobes.
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