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Crop Biotech Update

Estimation of Intramuscular Fat Percentage through Gene Expression

June 18, 2014

Consumers are almost always prepared to pay more for meat with superior eating qualities. An example of a measure of quality in meat is the intramuscular fat, which is associated with juiciness and flavor. The expression of genes involved in triacyglyceride and fatty acid synthesis and storage in cattle muscle are correlated with intramuscular fat percentage (IMF%). However, this still has not been proven in sheep muscle.

Twenty sheep were evaluated and the correlation between gene expression and IMF% in the sheep's longissimus muscle (located along the side of the spine) was calculated. Thirty genes were identified to be strongly correlated with IMF% in both cattle and sheep. Out of the 30 genes, CIDEA, THRSP, ACSM1, DGAT2 and FABP4 had the highest average rank in both species. The expression of any of these five genes could effectively estimate IMF%.

IMF% estimated from the gene expression was then compared against other methods of measuring IMF%. Two groups of Brahman cattle, a control group and a group with decreased IMF%, were utilized for this comparison. The IMF% estimated from gene expression was the only one able to discriminate between the two groups. Moreover, using up to five genes to estimate IMF% can increase the discriminating power.

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