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Open Access Research article

Association of an ACSL1 gene variant with polyunsaturated fatty acids in bovine skeletal muscle

Philipp Widmann1, Karin Nuernberg2, Christa Kuehn1 and Rosemarie Weikard1*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Unit Molecular Biology, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, Dummerstorf, 18196, Germany

2 Research Unit Muscle Biology and Growth, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, Dummerstorf, 18196, Germany

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:96  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-96

Published: 11 November 2011

Abstract

Background

The intramuscular fat deposition and the fatty acid profiles of beef affect meat quality. High proportions of unsaturated fatty acids are related to beef flavor and are beneficial for the nutritional value of meat. Moreover, a variety of clinical and epidemiologic studies showed that particularly long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources have a positive impact on human health and disease.

Results

To screen for genetic factors affecting fatty acid profiles in beef, we initially performed a microsatellite-based genome scan in a F2 Charolais × German Holstein resource population and identified a quantitative trait locus (QTL) for fatty acid composition in a region on bovine chromosome 27 where previously QTL affecting marbling score had been detected in beef cattle populations. The long-chain acyl-CoA synthetase 1 (ACSL1) gene was identified as the most plausible functional and positional candidate gene in the QTL interval due to its direct impact on fatty acid metabolism and its position in the QTL interval. ACSL1 is necessary for synthesis of long-chain acyl-CoA esters, fatty acid degradation and phospholipid remodeling. We validated the genomic annotation of the bovine ACSL1 gene by in silico comparative sequence analysis and experimental verification. Re-sequencing of the complete coding, exon-flanking intronic sequences, 3' untranslated region (3'UTR) and partial promoter region of the ACSL1 gene revealed three synonymous mutations in exons 6, 7, and 20, six noncoding intronic gene variants, six polymorphisms in the promoter region, and four variants in the 3' UTR region. The association analysis identified the gene variant in intron 5 of the ACSL1 gene (c.481-233A>G) to be significantly associated with the relative content of distinct fractions and ratios of fatty acids (e.g., n-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated, n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, trans vaccenic acid) in skeletal muscle. A tentative association of the ACSL1 gene variant with intramuscular fat content indicated that an indirect effect on fatty acid composition via modulation of total fat content of skeletal muscle cannot be excluded.

Conclusions

The initial QTL analysis suggested the ACSL1 gene as a positional and functional candidate gene for fatty acid composition in bovine skeletal muscle. The findings of subsequent association analyses indicate that ACSL1 or a separate gene in close proximity might play a functional role in mediating the lipid composition of beef.