A comparative approach to refine molecular mechanisms impacting meat quality and carcass characteristics
Schumacher, Madison Lee
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Fat deposition is important to both producers and consumers. Producers decide when to harvest animals based on a fat endpoint while consumers equate marbling to tenderness. USDA quality grade is determined by physiological age and marbling. While quality grades help provide insight about product palatability, there is too often variation within the same quality grade. The control of fat deposition is important to determination of carcass endpoint and efficiency of production. The purpose of this study was to increase our understanding of the regulation of fat deposition and muscle growth in relation to USDA quality grade, and to utilize a species comparison to highlight genes and pathways regulating these tissues in multiple meat producing species. Fifteen wethers and fifteen steers from the Red Bluff Research Center were fed to end points that represented Standard, Select, and Choice quality grades endpoints for steers while sheep were fed to fat thicknesses typical to industry endpoints. Subcutaneous adipose tissue and muscle samples were collected for gene expression analysis. Loin were removed from each animal for shear force analysis. Shear force analysis showed a significant reduction in shear force values as quality increased in beef (p < 0.05). RNA extracted from the adipose and muscle tissue was sent to Novogene for RNAseq analysis. The largest difference observed in this study was found within the ovine muscle tissue. Comparing Class 3 to Class 1 muscle tissue resulted in 723 genes down regulated and 1,853 genes up regulated. Class 3 to Class 2 showed 1,127 genes down regulated and 2,272 genes up regulated. When comparing bovine samples, there was an equal distribution of up and down regulated genes. Differentially expressed genes were associated with fat metabolism, cellular signaling, and inflammation in beef. Poor annotation limited the functional analysis of differentially expressed genes in sheep. This study emphasized the need for additional studies evaluating the relationship between gene expression and fat deposition.