Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(2):214-227. doi:10.7150/ijbs.8.214 This issue

Research Paper

Contrasting Cellularity and Fatty Acid Composition in Fat Depots from Alentejana and Barrosã Bovine Breeds Fed High and Low Forage Diets

Ana S.H. Costa1*, Paula A. Lopes1*, Marta Estevão1, Susana V. Martins1, Susana P. Alves2,3, Rui M.A. Pinto4, Hugo Pissarra1, Jorge J. Correia1, Mário Pinho1, Carlos M.G.A. Fontes1, José A.M. Prates1✉

1. CIISA, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Portugal.
2. Unidade de Produção Animal, L-INIA, INRB, I.P., Vale de Santarém, Portugal.
3. REQUIMTE, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, Vairão VC, Portugal.
4. iMed.UL, Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal.
* Authors who contributed equally.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
Costa ASH, Lopes PA, Estevão M, Martins SV, Alves SP, Pinto RMA, Pissarra H, Correia JJ, Pinho M, Fontes CMGA, Prates JAM. Contrasting Cellularity and Fatty Acid Composition in Fat Depots from Alentejana and Barrosã Bovine Breeds Fed High and Low Forage Diets. Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(2):214-227. doi:10.7150/ijbs.8.214. Available from

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During the finishing phase of bovines, large amounts of subcutaneous and visceral fats are deposited leading to production inefficiencies with major impact on meat quality. A better understanding of the cellularity features of the main fat depots could provide strategies for adipose tissue manipulation. This study assessed the effect of feeding diets with distinct forage to concentrate ratios on the cellularity of two fat depots of beef cattle and their implications on the fatty acid profile. Thus, two phylogenetically distant Portuguese bovine breeds, Alentejana and Barrosã, were selected. The results did not show differences in subcutaneous fat deposition nor in visceral fat depots partitioning. Plasma adipokines concentration failed to show a consistent relationship with fatness, as leptin remained constant in all experimental groups, whereas interleukin-6 was influenced by breed. Fat depot seems to determine the area and number of adipocytes, with larger adipocytes and a lower number of cells in subcutaneous fat than in mesenteric fat. Neither breed nor diet influenced adipocytes area and number. The contents of total fatty acids, partial sums of fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid isomeric profile were affected by breed and fat depot. The incorporation of saturated fatty acids (SFA), trans fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and branched chain fatty acids (BCFA) was higher in mesenteric fat depot, whereas subcutaneous fat depot had greater percentages of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). In addition, SFA and MUFA proportions seem to be breed-related. In spite of the less relevant role of diet, the percentages of PUFA and BCFA were influenced by this factor. Under these experimental conditions, the effect of fat depot on cellularity and fatty acid composition prevails over breed or diet, as reinforced by the principal component analysis.

Keywords: bovine, fat depots, cellularity, fatty acid composition, adipokines.