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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Physiology

Residual feed intake studies in Angus-sired cattle reveal a potential role for hypothalamic gene expression in regulating feed efficiency1,2


This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 92 No. 2, p. 549-560
    Received: Aug 13, 2013
    Accepted: Dec 16, 2013
    Published: November 24, 2014

    3 Corresponding author(s):

  1. S. D. Perkins*,
  2. C. N. Key*,
  3. C. F. Garrett*,
  4. C. D. Foradori,
  5. C. L. Bratcher*,
  6. L. A. Kriese-Anderson* and
  7. T. D. Brandebourg 3
  1. Department of Animal Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849
    Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849


Mechanisms underlying variation in residual feed intake (RFI), a heritable feed efficiency measure, are poorly understood while the relationship between RFI and meat quality is uncertain. To address these issues, 2 divergent cohorts consisting of High (HRFI) and Low (LRFI) RFI individuals were created by assessing RFI in 48 Angus-sired steers during a 70 d feeding trial to identify steers with divergent RFI. The association of RFI with indices of meat quality and expression of genes within hypothalamic and adipose tissue was then determined in LRFI and HRFI steers. While on test, feed intake was recorded daily with BW and hip heights recorded at 14 d intervals. Ultrasound measurements of rib eye area (REA) and backfat (BF) were recorded initially and before harvest. Carcass and growth data were analyzed using a mixed model with RFI level (LRFI, HRFI) as the independent variable. The least-square means (lsmeans) for RFI were –1.25 and 1.51 for the LRFI and HRFI cohorts (P < .0001). Dry matter intake was higher for the HRFI individuals versus the LRFI steers (P < .0001) while on test BW gain was not different between the 2 groups (P < 0.73). There were no differences detected in marbling score (P < 0.93), BF (P < 0.61), REA (P < 0.15), yield grade (P < 0.85) or objective Hunter color measures between LRFI and HRFI steers indicating that there was no relationship between RFI and meat quality. Neuropeptide-Y (NPY), relaxin-3 (RLN3), melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R), and GnRH mRNA expression was 64%, 59%, 58%, 86% lower (P < 0.05), respectively, while gonadotropin inhibiting hormone (GnIH) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA expression was 198% and 350% higher (P < 0.01) in the arcuate nucleus of LRFI steers. Expression of agouti-related protein (AGRP), relaxin/insulin-like family peptide receptor 1 (RXFP1), and melanocortin 3 receptor mRNA was similar between LRFI and HRFI animals. Pituitary expression of FSHβ (P < 0.03) and LHβ (P < 0.01) was correlated to hypothalamic GnRH levels suggesting that changes in gene expression within the arcuate nucleus had functional consequences. Leptin mRNA expression was 245% higher in the adipose tissue of LRFI steers consistent with lower levels of NPY and higher expression of POMC in their hypothalami. These data support the hypothesis that differences in hypothalamic neuropeptide gene expression underlie variation in feed efficiency in steers while the gonadotropin axis may also influence feed efficiency.

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