Fetal programming of skeletal muscle development in ruminant animals.

M. Du, J. Tong, J. Zhao, K. R. Underwood, M. Zhu, S. P. Ford, P. W. Nathanielsz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


Enhancing skeletal muscle growth is crucial for animal agriculture because skeletal muscle provides meat for human consumption. An increasing body of evidence shows that the level of maternal nutrition alters fetal skeletal muscle development, with long-term effects on offspring growth and performance. Fetal skeletal muscle development mainly involves myogenesis (i.e., muscle cell development), but also involves adipogenesis (i.e., adipocyte development) and fibrogenesis (i.e., fibroblast development). These tissues in fetal muscle are mainly derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). Shifting the commitment of MSC from myogenesis to adipogenesis increases intramuscular fat (i.e., marbling), improving the quality grade of meats. Strong experimental evidence indicates that Wingless and Int (Wnt)/beta-catenin signaling regulates MSC differentiation. Upregulation of Wnt/beta-catenin promotes myogenesis, and downregulation enhances adipogenesis. A lack of nutrients in early to midgestation reduces the formation of secondary muscle fibers in ruminant animals. Nutrient deficiency during mid- to late gestation decreases the number of intramuscular adipocytes and muscle fiber sizes. Knowledge of this regulatory mechanism will allow the development of strategies to enhance muscle growth and marbling in offspring, especially in the setting of nutrient deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E51-60
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number13 Suppl
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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