Appearance, distribution, and amount of intramuscular fat (IMF), often referred to as marbling, are highly variable and depend on environmental and genetic factors. On the molecular level, the concerted action of several drivers, including hormones, receptors, transcription factors, etc., determines where clusters of adipocytes arise. Therefore, the aim of future studies remains to identify such factors as biological markers of IMF to increase the ability to identify animals that deposit IMF early in age to increase efficiency of high-quality meat production. In an attempt to unravel the cellular development of marbling, we investigated the abundance of markers for adipogenic differentiation during fattening of cattle and the transcriptome of muscle and dissected IMF. Markers of different stages of adipogenic differentiation are well known from cell culture experiments. They are usually transiently expressed, such as delta-like homolog 1 (DLK1) that is abundant in preadipocytes and absent during differentiation to mature adipocytes. It is even a greater challenge to detect those markers in live animals. Within skeletal muscles, hyperplasia and hypertrophy of adipocytes can be observed throughout life. Therefore, development of marbling requires, on the cellular level, recruitment, proliferation, and differentiation of adipogenic cells to store excess energy in the form of lipids in new cells. In a recent study, we investigated the localization and abundance of early markers of adipogenic differentiation, such as DLK1, in bovine muscle tissue. An inverse relationship between IMF content and number of DLK1-positive cells in bovine muscle was demonstrated. Considering the cellular environment of differentiating adipocytes in muscle and the secretory action of adipocytes and myocytes, it becomes obvious that cross talk between cells via adipokines and myokines may be important for IMF development. Secreted proteins can act on other cells, inhibiting or stimulating their function via autocrine and paracrine actions. Such factors with potential influence on IMF, among them, agouti signaling protein and thrombospondin 4, were identified in transcriptome analyses and further investigated. Furthermore, results from transcriptome analysis indicate involvement of genes that are not directly related to adipogenesis and lipid metabolism, providing new candidates for future research.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology