How can lambs be more resistant to cold? Research has made new discoveries

Winter and spring are the main seasons for lambing, so cold is one of the main causes of lamb death, and it is also a difficult point for lamb breeding in meat sheep production. Lamb due to imperfect body temperature regulation function, can not through the muscle trembling thermogenesis to resist the outside cold, then the lamb’s energy is mainly derived from brown adipose tissue, through brown fat to play non-trembling thermogenesis.

Recently, the sheep genetic breeding team of the College of Animal Science and Technology of Sichuan Agricultural University published a research paper entitled “The Thermogenic Effect of Maternal Carnitine To Promote the Thermogenic Effect of Lamb Brown Fat under Cold Stimulation” in the “The FASEB Journal”, which promoted the thermogenicity of brown fat in newborn lambs by supplementing fatty acid oxidative metabolism intermediate – carnitine in the late gestation diet of ewes, thereby enabling lambs to maintain body temperature under cold conditions and improve lamb survival rate.

Studies have found that lambs, stimulated by the cold, are able to promote lipid remodeling of brown fats while activating the citric acid cycle and the β oxidation of fatty acids. Further studies have found that carnitine, an intermediate of fatty acid β oxidative metabolism, plays an important role in the thermogenesis and development of brown fat in lambs. The addition of carnitine to the diet of ewes in the third trimester of pregnancy increases the content of triglycerides and glycogen in lamb brown fat, while prolonging the length of the fatty acid chain in triglycerides, thereby improving the thermogenic capacity as the “raw material” of brown fat thermogenesis. Further in brown adipocytes, it was found that carnitine promotes the deposition of triglycerides and glycogen in brown adipocytes through AMPKα kinase and thus regulates thermogenesis, and the results of the study have important theoretical and practical significance for the thermogenesis regulation and body temperature maintenance of brown fat in lambs under cold conditions. At the same time, the relevant achievements have been promoted and applied in a number of meat sheep demonstration bases, which have a significant effect on improving the early production and development and survival rate of lambs.

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Image source: Sichuan Agricultural University

Liu Xin, a 2020 master’s student majoring in animal genetics, breeding and reproduction, college of animal science and technology of Sichuan Agricultural University, is the first author of the paper, and Professor Wang Linjie is the corresponding author of the paper. The research was funded by the National Key Research and Development Program and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. (Source: China Science Daily, Zhang Qingdan, Han Qinglong)

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