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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 90 No. 1, p. 184-196
    Received: May 04, 2011
    Published: January 20, 2015

    3 Corresponding author(s):


Effects of limited and excess protein intakes of pregnant gilts on carcass quality and cellular properties of skeletal muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue in fattening pigs12

  1. C. Rehfeldt 3,
  2. B. Stabenow,
  3. R. Pfuhl*,
  4. J. Block*,
  5. G. Nürnberg,
  6. W. Otten§,
  7. C. C. Metges# and
  8. C. Kalbe*
  1. Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Research Units of
    Muscle Biology and Growth,
    Experimental Animal Facilities,
    Genetics and Biometry,
    Behavioral Physiology, and
    Nutritional Physiology “Oskar Kellner,” 18196 Dummerstorf, Germany



The aim of this study was to investigate whether dietary protein intake of gilts during gestation below (50%) or above (250%) recommendations affects body composition, carcass and meat quality, and properties of skeletal muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SCAT) in offspring at d 83 and 188 of age. German Landrace gilts were fed isoenergetic gestation diets (~13.7 MJ of ME/kg) containing a low (LP, 6.5%; n = 18), an adequate (AP, 12.1%; n = 20), or a high (HP, 30%; n = 16) protein content from mating until farrowing. Within 48 h of birth, offspring were cross-fostered to sows fed a standard diet. On d 83 of age, no effects of the LP diet on BW and body composition were detected, whereas HP pigs showed a slight growth delay (P = 0.06) associated with increased relative weights of small intestine (P < 0.01) and brain (P = 0.08), and reduced relative thymus weight (P < 0.01). On d 188 of age, BW was not different among the dietary groups. However, the carcass of LP pigs contained less (P = 0.01) lean and more (P = 0.07) fat compared with AP and HP pigs, which was only pronounced in pigs originating from large litters (P < 0.05). Like skeletal muscles (P = 0.06), the heart muscle weighed less (P = 0.02) in LP than AP pigs. Compared with AP pigs, LP pigs exhibited a fewer (P = 0.09) total number of myofibers in semitendinosus muscle plus LM both at d 83 and 188 of age, whereas total muscular DNA was less (P = 0.02) at d 188 only. The mRNA abundance of IGF2 measured on d 188 was reduced in SCAT (P = 0.03) and LM (P = 0.07) of LP compared with AP pigs. No changes in muscular fiber type frequency, capillary density, or creatine kinase activity, as well as SCAT adipocyte size and number, were observed at either stages of age. Meat quality characteristics remained unchanged at d 83, whereas Warner-Bratzler shear force value in LM was decreased (P = 0.03) in LP compared with AP pigs on d 188 of age. The results suggest that the maternal LP diet impairs prenatal myofiber formation, reduces the potential of postnatal lean growth related to reduced IGF2 mRNA expression and myonuclear accumulation, and consequently changes carcass quality toward reduced lean proportion and improved tenderness at market weight. In contrast, except for a slight transient growth delay, excess dietary protein during gestation seems to have little effect on the fetal programming of postnatal muscle and adipose tissue phenotype of the progeny.

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