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New predictors for pork quality derived from gene expression profiles of skeletal muscle during prenatal development

The purpose of this project is to use genomic data and natural regulation mechanisms to offer new approaches to improve pork quality. An important proportion of the heritability of meat quality is determined during prenatal muscle development. Therefore breed-specific gene expression in embryonic muscle tissue of extreme breeds will be studied to shortlist functional candidates for meat quality, which will be screened for polymorphism. Genotypic variation will be associated with phenotypic differences in technological meat quality parameters in commercial pigs. This project will provide genetic markers with proven association to meat quality traits suitable for implementation in conventional production systems.

The aim of the project is to identify new predictors for pork quality derived from gene expression profiles of skeletal muscle during prenatal development, by elucidating factors that are important for the genetic regulation of prenatal processes, and their relation to postnatal muscle characteristics that are important for meat quality. The overall goals of the project are:
1) to identify potential functional candidate genes controlling muscle phenotype in terms of technological measurable meat quality traits
2) to confirm their effect on meat quality
3) to provide DNA tests suitable for implementation in pig breeding in order to breed for improved pork quality.

Progress to Date
Based on histochemical studies on porcine prenatal muscles, seven key developmental events have been identified and examined for differential gene regulation. At each sampling point, about 2 000 embryos of the breeds Duroc and Pietrain were collected for RNA expression profiling. At the same time, objective technologically measurable parameters of meat quality like conductivity, shear force, colour, intramuscular fat content, water binding capacity and pH were recorded from the embryos´ relatives and breeding values of the embryos and their parents were estimated. These efforts allowed detection of breed-specific, stage-specific and/or phenotype-associated transcripts. The same meat quality traits were recorded from about 2 000 animals of commercial crosses in order to finally perform linkage and association analysis.

From the list of genes with breed-specific, stage-specific and/or phenotype-associated expression, a shortlist of about 50 highly promising candidate genes was established, taking into account knowledge of the genes´ function and their mapping position in genomic regions of known QTL for meat quality traits.


Scientist responsible for the project

Endenicher Allee 15
53115 Bonn
Germany - DE

Phone: +49 228 737274
Fax: +49 228 739353


Project ID QLRT-1999-31363
Organisation Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 1 907 821 €
Total EC contribution   1 200 000 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project

The partners

  • Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhems-Universitaet Bonn, Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Germany - DE
  • Landesverband Rheinischer Schweinezüchter, Germany - DE
  • Züchtungszentrale Deutsches Hybridschwein GmbH, Germany - DE

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