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Adiposity, fatty acid composition, and delta-9 desaturase activity during growth in beef cattle

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Oleic acid (18:1n-9) is the most abundant fatty acid in bovine adipose tissue. Because most of the lipid in bovine muscle is contributed by intramuscular adipocytes, oleic acid also is the predominant fatty acid in beef. In many species, the concentration of oleic acid in adipose tissue is dictated by the average concentration of oleic acid in the diet, but in ruminant species such as beef cattle, oleic acid is hydrogenated largely to stearic acid by ruminal microorganisms. In these species, the concentration of oleic acid in adipose tissue is dependent upon the activity of Δ9 desaturase, encoded by the stearoyl coenzyme A desaturase (SCD) gene. Expression of the SCD gene is essential for bovine preadipocyte differentiation, and desaturase gene expression and catalytic activity increase dramatically as adipose tissue mass increases after weaning. Feeding a hay-based diet to American Wagyu steers to a typical Japanese bodyweight endpoint (650 kg) markedly stimulated desaturase enzyme activity as well as the accumulation of both oleic acid and intramuscular lipid, but the increase in oleic acid and intramuscular lipid was much less in hay-fed Angus steers. Increasing the concentration of oleic acid improves the palatability and healthiness of beef, and Korean Hanwoo and Japanese Black (and American Wagyu) seem especially well adapted to accumulate oleic acid in their adipose tissue.
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Keywords: adiposity; beef cattle; fatty acids; stearoyl coenzyme A desaturase

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas, USA; 2: Yeungnam University, Gyeongsan, Korea; 3: CSIRO, Food Science Australia, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; and 4: Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Japan (retired)

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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