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Ruminant glycogen metabolism

Gardner, G.E., McGilchrist, P. and Pethick, D.W. (2014) Ruminant glycogen metabolism. Animal Production Science, 54 (10). pp. 1575-1583.

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The biochemistry of glycogen metabolism is well characterised, having been extensively studied in laboratory rodents and humans, and from this stems the bulk of our knowledge regarding the metabolism of glycogen in ruminants. With respect to intermediary metabolism, the key tissues include the liver and muscle. The liver glycogen depot plays a central role in intermediary metabolism, storing and mobilising glycogen during the fed and fasted metabolic states, with these responses modulated during pregnancy, lactation, and exercise. Alternatively, the muscle glycogen depot is particularly important for local energy homeostasis, and is likely to be less important as a key post-prandial sink for blood glucose given the reduced absorption of glucose from the gut in ruminant animals. Yet similar to the liver, this depot is also in a constant state of turnover, with the muscle glycogen concentration at any point in time a reflection of the rates of glycogen synthesis and degradation. Muscle glycogen metabolism attracts particular attention given its importance for post-mortem acidification of muscle tissue, with a shortage at slaughter leading to dark cutting meat. Simplistically the concentration of muscle glycogen at slaughter is a function of two key factors, the on-farm starting levels of glycogen minus the amount depleted during the pre-slaughter phase. On-farm concentrations of muscle glycogen are largely a reflection of metabolisable energy intake driving increased rates of muscle glycogen synthesis. Compared with simple-stomached species the rate of glycogen synthesis within ruminants is relatively low. Yet there also appears to be differences between sheep and cattle when fed diets of similar metabolisable energy, with cattle repleting muscle glycogen more slowly after depletion through exercise. While metabolisable energy intake is the key driver, genetic and age-related factors have also been shown to influence glycogen repletion. The amount of muscle glycogen depleted during the pre-slaughter phase is largely associated with stress and adrenaline release, and several recent studies have characterised the importance of factors such as exercise, age and genetics which modulate this stress response. This paper presents a summary of recent experiments in both cattle and sheep that highlight current developments in the understanding of this trait.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2014
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