Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Intramuscular Fat Development and Growth in Cattle


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Intramuscular fat, also referred to as marbling fat, is the white fat deposited within skeletal muscle tissue. The content of intramuscular fat in the skeletal muscle, particularly the longissimus dorsi muscle, of cattle is a critical determinant of beef quality and value. In this review, we summarize the process of intramuscular fat development and growth, the factors that affect this process, and the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms that mediate this process in cattle. Compared to other species, cattle have a remarkable ability to accumulate intramuscular fat, partly attributed to the abundance of sources of fatty acids for synthesizing triglycerides. Compared to other adipose depots such as subcutaneous fat, intramuscular fat develops later and grows more slowly. The commitment and differentiation of adipose precursor cells into adipocytes as well as the maturation of adipocytes are crucial steps in intramuscular fat development and growth in cattle. Each of these steps is controlled by various factors, underscoring the complexity of the regulatory network governing adipogenesis in the skeletal muscle. These factors include genetics, epigenetics, nutrition (including maternal nutrition), rumen microbiome, vitamins, hormones, weaning age, slaughter age, slaughter weight, and stress. Many of these factors seem to affect intramuscular fat deposition through the transcriptional or epigenetic regulation of genes directly involved in the development and growth of intramuscular fat. A better understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which intramuscular fat develops and grows in cattle will help us develop more effective strategies to optimize intramuscular fat deposition in cattle, thereby maximizing the quality and value of beef meat.




Tan, Z.; Jiang, H. Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Intramuscular Fat Development and Growth in Cattle. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25, 2520.