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Study of the influence of age and weaning on the contractile and metabolic characteristics of bovine muscle.

  • Picard, B
  • Gagnière, H
  • Geay, Y
  • Hocquette, J F
  • Robelin, J
Published Article
Reproduction, nutrition, development
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1995
PMID: 7873046


Weaning is an interesting period for the study of the nutritional regulation of muscle energy metabolism, since during this stage the nature of the substrates supplied to the muscle and their energy balance are profoundly changed. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of these modifications on the contractile and metabolic characteristics of bovine muscle. Two similar groups of 7 male Montbéliard calves were used with the same age and weight, and with the same energy intake. One group consisted of milk-fed calves, the other of weaned animals. The latter were progressively weaned over a period between 107 and 128 d. The average age at slaughter in the 2 groups was 170 d. Biopsy specimens of semitendinosus (ST) muscle were taken at the ages of 66 d, 94 d (before the beginning of weaning) and 136 d (at the end of weaning) to follow the evolution of muscle characteristics. Samples of longissimus thoracis (LT) muscle were taken 24 h after slaughter and used to study the changes in protein and DNA content. The proportion and area of the different types of fiber, I (slow, oxidative), IIA (fast, oxido-glycolytic), IIB (fast, glycolytic) and IIC (fast/slow, oxidoglycolytic) were measured by immunohistochemistry and image analysis. The metabolism of the muscles was determined by studying isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH, oxidative) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH, glycolytic) activity. The results obtained between 2 and 6 months of life showed an overall increase in the area of the fibers (I, IIA, IIB and IIC) and a conversion of type IIA fibers into type IIB accompanied by a shift in the energy metabolism towards a glycolytic type. Weaning caused temporary stress, whose main consequences were to decrease overall muscle fiber area and the percentage of type IIB fibers, and increase the proportion of type IIC fibers in weaned animals. These effects may have been due to the nutritional and behavioral disturbances that accompany weaning, because 42 d after the end of weaning there was no difference in the size of ST and LT fibers between the 2 groups whereas the proportion of type IIA fibers was still higher in weaned animals.

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