• Comparative genomic identification and validation of β-defensin genes in the Ovis aries genome

      Hall, T. J; McQuillan, C.; Finlay, Emma K.; O'Farrelly, Cliona; Fair, Seán; Meade, Kieran G; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/104 (Biomed Central, 2017-04-04)
      Background β-defensins are small, cationic, antimicrobial peptides found in species across the plant and animal kingdoms. In addition to microbiocidal activity, roles in immunity as well as reproduction have more recently been documented. β-defensin genes in Ovis aries (domestic sheep) have been poorly annotated, having been identified only by automatic gene prediction algorithms. The objective of this study was to use a comparative genomics approach to identify and characterise the β-defensin gene repertoire in sheep using the bovine genome as the primary reference. Results All 57 currently predicted bovine β-defensin genes were used to find orthologous sequences in the most recent version of the sheep genome (OAR v4.0). Forty three genes were found to have close genomic matches (>70% similarity) between sheep and cattle. The orthologous genes were located in four clusters across the genome, with 4 genes on chromosome 2, 19 genes on chromosome 13, 5 genes on chromosome 20 and 15 genes on chromosome 26. Conserved gene order for the β-defensin genes was apparent in the two smaller clusters, although gene order was reversed on chromosome 2, suggesting an inversion between sheep and cattle. Complete conservation of gene order was also observed for chromosome 13 β-defensin orthologs. More structural differences were apparent between chromosome 26 genes and the orthologous region in the bovine reference genome, which is known to be copy-number variable. In this cluster, the Defensin-beta 1 (DEFB1) gene matched to eleven Bovine Neutrophil beta-Defensin (BNBD) genes on chromosome 27 with almost uniform similarity, as well as to tracheal, enteric and lingual anti-microbial peptides (TAP, EAP and LAP), suggesting that annotation of the bovine reference sequence is still incomplete. qPCR was used to profile the expression of 34 β-defensin genes, representing each of the four clusters, in the ram reproductive tract. Distinct site-specific and differential expression profiles were detected across the reproductive tract of mature rams with preferential β-defensin gene expression in the epididymis, recapitulating observations for orthologous genes in other species. Conclusions This is the first comprehensive analysis of β-defensin genes encoded by the ovine reference sequence, and the first report of an expanded repertoire of β-defensin genes in this species. The preferential expression of these genes in the epididymis suggests a role in fertility, possibly providing immunoprotection for sperm within the female reproductive tract.
    • A consumer study of the effect of castration and slaughter age of lambs on the sensory quality of meat

      Gravador, Rufielyn S.; Pace, Elaine; Mooney, Bernard R.; Jaeger, Sara R.; Gkarane, Vasiliki; Fahey, Alan G.; Brunton, Nigel P.; Claffey, Noel A.; Allen, Paul; Diskin, Michael G.; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-09-20)
      Meat from ram lambs is often considered inferior to meat from castrated lambs, especially in older or heavier animals. This study aimed to determine if differences exist in the sensory quality and acceptability of meat from rams and castrates, slaughtered at mean ages of 196 or 385 days. Rams had higher average daily gain, feed conversion efficiency, total weight gain and lower carcass fatness than castrates. A triangle test (n = 81 consumers) showed a difference (P < 0.05) in the sensory quality of meat from rams vs castrates. A 9-point hedonic test involving 100 consumers showed that, although meat from both rams and castrates was ‘liked’, meat from castrates scored higher (P < 0.05) in Overall Liking, Flavour Liking and Tenderness Liking. Meat from castrates was also rated lower (P < 0.05) in Unpleasant Taste/Off-Flavour Intensity. Flavour Intensity and Unpleasant Taste/Off-Flavour Intensity increased (P < 0.05) with age at slaughter. This consumer study revealed that while meat from castrates was higher in Overall Liking, Flavour Liking and Tenderness Liking and lower in Unpleasant Taste/Off-Flavour Intensity than meat from rams, both meats were ‘liked’ by consumers.
    • Effect of castration and age at slaughter on sensory perception of lamb meat

      Gkarane, Vasiliki; Allen, Paul; Gravador, Rufielyn S.; Diskin, Michael G.; Claffey, Noel A.; Fahey, Alan G.; Brunton, Nigel P; Farmer, Linda J.; Moloney, Aidan P; Monahan, Frank J; et al. (Elsevier, 2017-11-02)
      This study assessed the effect of castration and slaughter age (196–385 days old) on sensory quality of lamb meat from two sheep breeds (Scottish Blackface, SB; Texel x Scottish Blackface, TxSB). Results obtained using a trained sensory panel showed small but statistically significant differences due to castration, with rams having higher scores for Intensity of Lamb Aroma, Animal Smell/Farm Smell, Woolly Aroma, Rancid Aroma, Manure/Faecal Aroma, Sweaty Aroma and Off-flavours. SB lamb had higher scores for Intensity of Lamb Aroma, Lamb Flavour, Lamb Aftertaste, Tenderness and Juiciness. Age effects on sensory attributes were not linear and significant age × gender interactions were observed. The number of samples considered “extreme” in undesirable flavour attributes was higher among rams and T × SB animals. The impact of the sensory differences on consumer acceptability of lamb remains to be established.
    • Effects of castration and slaughter age on the fatty acid composition of ovine muscle and adipose tissue from two breeds

      Gravador, Rufielyn S.; Moloney, Aidan P; Brunton, Nigel; Gkarane, Vasiliki; Allen, Paul; Fahey, Alan G; Claffey, Noel A.; Diskin, Michael G.; Farmer, Linda J.; Monahan, Frank J; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-10-04)
      Fatty acids (g/100 g total fatty acids) in M. longissimus thoracis et lumborum (LTL) and total branched chain fatty acids (μg/g fat) in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) of rams and castrates from Scottish Blackface (SB) or Texel × Scottish Blackface (T × SB) lambs, slaughtered at mean ages of 196, 242, 293, 344 or 385 days were determined. Lambs were fed pasture prior to a 36-day finishing period on a barley/maize-based concentrate ration. The intramuscular fat content (IMF; %) was higher (P < 0.001) in castrates than in rams and in SB compared to T × SB lambs (P < 0.001). The proportions of c9-C18:1 and total monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) were higher (P < 0.001) in LTL of castrates than rams. The proportions of C18:2n-6 and total n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) were lower (P = 0.001) in LTL of castrates compared to rams related to differences in IMF content. The proportions of C14:0, C16:0, c9-C18:1 and total MUFA were higher (P < 0.05), while the proportions of C18:2n-6, C20:4n-6, C20:5n-3, total PUFA, n-6 and n-3 PUFA were lower (P < 0.05), in SB than in T × SB lambs, which was related to differences in IMF content. There was a higher (P < 0.001) proportion of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) c9,t11-C18:2 in LTL from SB compared to T × SB. The effects of slaughter age on the proportions of fatty acids in LTL did not show a clear trend. The concentration of 4-methylnonanoic acid was higher (P = 0.002) in SAT of rams than castrates, particularly in older lambs. Despite the differences in the muscle fatty acid composition due to gender, slaughter age or breed of lambs, the ratio of n-6/n-3 PUFA (≤3.11) was within the dietary recommendation of <4.0 for human health.