Evolution of proteolytic indicators during storage of broiler wooden breast meat

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In the past few yr, an emerging muscle abnormality termed wooden breast (WB) was found to affect broilers' Pectoralis major muscles. Although different studies have been performed in order to evaluate the effect of WB on meat quality, there is no evidence concerning its impact on the proteolytic processes taking place during meat aging. Thus, this study aimed at investigating the effect of a 7-day storage of broiler breast fillets on free calcium concentration, calpain activity, and proteolysis. Both the superficial and the deep layers of the Pectoralis major muscles were considered. Although similar electrophoretic profiles were observed by comparing the corresponding sampling positions, an evident lack of a high-molecular weight protein band, ascribed to nebulin, was found in the superficial layer of the WB fillets at 10 h postmortem. Compared to normal fillets (NB), both the superficial and the deep layer of WB exhibited a significantly higher amount of free calcium at 168 h postmortem (96 and 88 vs. 20 and 53 μM; P ≤ 0.001). Casein zymograms evidenced the presence of μ/m-calpain and its autolyzed form migrating as a doublet within the gel. Interestingly, neither the occurrence of WB nor the intra-fillet sampling position exerted any relevant effect on calpain activity. Indeed, a significant reduction (P ≤ 0.05) in the unautolyzed μ/m-calpain activity coupled with a remarkable increase (P ≤ 0.05) in the autolyzed form activity was observed during storage. Concurrently, if compared to NB, a significantly larger (P ≤ 0.05) amount of desmin was detected in both the superficial and the deep layers of the WB samples at 10 h postmortem. Then, a sharp decrease of the intact desmin band coupled with a progressive accumulation of its 39-kDa degradation fragment was observed without any significant difference among groups. In conclusion, the increased hardness that typically affects the WB cases seemed not to be exclusively attributable to differences in the proteolytic processes taking place within the postmortem period.

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