Residual feed intake studies in Angus-sired cattle reveal a potential role for hypothalamic gene expression in regulating feed efficiency

S. D. Perkins, C. N. Key, C. F. Garrett, C. D. Foradori, C. L. Bratcher, L. A. Kriese-Anderson, T. D. Brandebourg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Mechanisms underlying variation in residual feed intake (RFI), a heritable feed efficiency measure, are poorly understood while the relationship between RFIand meat quality is uncertain. To address these issues, 2 divergent cohorts consisting of High (HRFI) and Low (LRFI) RFIindividuals were created by assessing RFIin 48 Angus-sired steers during a 70 d feeding trial to identify steers with divergent RFI. The association of RFIwith indices of meat quality and expression of genes within hypothalamic and adipose tissue was then determined in LRFIand HRFIsteers. While on test, feed intake was recorded daily with BW and hip heights recorded at 14 d intervals. Ultrasound measurements of rib eye area (REA) and backfat (BF) were recorded initially and before harvest. Carcass and growth data were analyzed using a mixed model with RFIlevel (LRFI, HRFI) as the independent variable. The least-square means (lsmeans) for RFIwere -1.25 and 1.51 for the LRFIand HRFIcohorts (P <.0001). Dry matter intake was higher for the HRFIindividuals versus the LRFIsteers (P <.0001) while on test BW gain was not different between the 2 groups (P < 0.73). There were no differences detected in marbling score (P < 0.93), BF (P < 0.61), REA (P < 0.15), yield grade (P < 0.85) or objective Hunter color measures between LRFIand HRFIsteers indicating that there was no relationship between RFIand meat quality. Neuropeptide- Y (NPY), relaxin-3 (RLN3), melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R), and GnRH mRNA expression was 64%, 59%, 58%, 86% lower (P < 0.05), respectively, while gonadotropin inhibiting hormone (GnIH) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA expression was 198% and 350% higher (P < 0.01) in the arcuate nucleus of LRFIsteers. Expression of agouti-related protein (AGRP), relaxin/ insulin-like family peptide receptor 1 (RXFP1), and melanocortin 3 receptor mRNA was similar between LRFIand HRFIanimals. Pituitary expression of FSHβ (P < 0.03) and LHβ (P < 0.01) was correlated to hypothalamic GnRH levels suggesting that changes in gene expression within the arcuate nucleus had functional consequences. Leptin mRNA expression was 245% higher in the adipose tissue of LRFIsteers consistent with lower levels of NPY and higher expression of POMC in their hypothalami. These data support the hypothesis that differences in hypothalamic neuropeptide gene expression underlie variation in feed efficiency in steers while the gonadotropin axis may also influence feed efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-560
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Feed efficiency
  • Gene expression
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone
  • Hypothalamus
  • Residual feed intake
  • Steer


Dive into the research topics of 'Residual feed intake studies in Angus-sired cattle reveal a potential role for hypothalamic gene expression in regulating feed efficiency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this