Triennial growth and development symposium: Intramuscular fat deposition in ruminants and pigs: A transcriptomics perspective

B. P. Dalrymple, B. Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The genomics era has led to an explosion in the study of gene expression in production animals. Intramuscular fat (IMF) content (both high and low) and composition are major quality attributes of meat, and more than 90 transcriptomic studies of IMF deposition have been undertaken in the ruminants and pigs since 2001, with the majority since 2008. The studies have implicated many genes involved in the control of adipogenesis, lipogenesis, and deposition of IMF, but there is relatively little consistency between the different studies. However, the genes encoding the synthesis enzymes acetyl-CoA carboxylase α, fatty acid synthase, and stearoyl-CoA desaturase; the fatty acid binding protein 4; the potential signaling protein thyroid hormone responsive; and the regulators C/EBPα, PPARγ, and sterol regulatory element binding transcription factor 1 are supported by 5 or more of the 90 studies. By combining the results of all the studies, complete pathways for long-chain fatty acid (LCFA) and triacylglyceride (TAG) synthesis are identified, as are a number of genes encoding proteins probably associated with the storage of TAG and genes encod- ing a number of known and potential adipokines. In contrast, support for the association of lipolytic pathways with IMF percentage is less strong. Differences in experimental design—in particular, the age of the animals, the rate of IMF deposition at sampling, the past nutritional history of the animals used, and the complexities of using a tissue with mixed cell types—have contributed to the differences in results and interpretation. Biomarkers predictive of future IMF percentage, facilitating reaching optimal IMF content at slaughter, may have industry utility, but to be useful in animal biopsy and postslaughter samples, where multiple cell types are present, genes must be carefully chosen to ensure that they are informative about the expected processes. Despite these problems, candidate biomarkers for estimation of de novo intramuscular adipocyte LCFA synthesis, LCFA uptake rate by intramuscular adipocytes, and IMF deposition rate have been identified and examples of their utility have been published. However, further work is required to demonstrate how best to apply the assays for the benefit of the relevant livestock production industries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2272-2283
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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