Expression analyses of candidate genes related to meat quality traits in squabs from two breeds of meat-type pigeon
In this study, meat quality traits were compared between squabs from two pigeon breeds: one Chinese indigenous breed, the Shiqi (SQ) meat-type pigeon, and an imported breed, the white king (WK) meat-type pigeon. Breed differences were detected in the content of intramuscular fat (IMF) in the breast muscle. SQ squabs had significantly higher IMF content than the WK birds. The shear force value (an objective measure of meat tenderness) of SQ birds was also relatively lower than that of the WK squabs. Further analysis of fatty acids profile revealed that SQ squabs exhibited significant advantage in the synthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids, while WK squabs were significantly higher in the sum of monounsaturated fatty acids. Breast muscle in the SQ squabs was also significantly higher in the ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids, as well as the sum of omega 6 fatty acids. Variability of expression levels of functional genes in relation to fat accumulation and meat tenderness was analysed by qRT-PCR. Gene expression analyses showed that the hepatic expression of LPL (lipoprotein lipase), FABP4 (fatty acid-binding protein 4), and CAPN2 (calpain-2) were significantly higher in the SQ squabs. In the breast muscle tissue, the FABP3 (fatty acid-binding protein 3) and CAPN2 mRNA abundance was significantly higher in SQ squabs. Our results suggested that these differentially expressed genes might be candidate genes used in the programmes of targeted selection for squabs with higher IMF content, tender meat, and more favourable fatty acids composition.