Technical note: A muscle biopsy technique for stratifying cattle by skeletal muscle metabolic activity

L. Beckett, R. Rosemond, B. Renquist, R. R. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Tissue biopsy metabolic activity, assessed using the oxidation-reduction indicator resazurin, may serve as a proxy to assess energy expenditure associated with maintenance in nongrowing animals or growth rate in growing animals. Herein, we evaluate the repeatability, practicality, and sensitivity of a resazurin-based assay for ranking bovine skeletal muscle biopsies based on metabolic activity. Six yearling Holstein heifers (body weight = 330 ± 11.3 kg) were fed 4 dietary treatments consisting of high or low rumen-degradable starch and fiber arranged factorially in a partially replicated Latin square design. Periods were 18 d, consisting of 3 d for diet transition, 14 d for diet adaptation, and 1 d for sample collection. Semitendinosus biopsies were collected into ice-cold Dulbecco's modified Eagle medium (Fisher Scientific, Hampton, NH) from each heifer during each period. Analysis was initiated within an hour of sample collection. To assess tissue metabolic rate, biopsies were transferred to Dulbecco's modified Eagle medium with resazurin and incubated at 37°C. Fluorescence of each sample was read at time 0 and at 15-min intervals for 2 h. Change in fluorescence was representative of skeletal muscle reducing equivalent production. Fluorescent signal strength increased with time and relative rank of treatments did not change with time; accordingly, future studies may compare fluorescence at a single time point. Change in fluorescence at 120 min was used for analysis of the fixed effects of fiber, starch, and animal when accounting for a random effect of period. Samples collected when animals were on a high-ruminally degradable starch diet were more metabolically active than samples collected from animals on low-starch diets. Significant differences in metabolic activity among individual animals were also identified. Average relative fluorescence was correlated with dry matter intake, average daily gain, and feed-to-gain ratio. The relative fluorescence tended to correlate with average daily gain (r = 0.749) and feed-to-gain ratio (r = −0.783); change in fluorescence did not correlate with dry matter intake. Although evaluated on a small sample size, this technique shows promise as a potential means of ranking animals by growth or feed efficiency. Further work on a larger experimental population is needed to confirm the usefulness of this assay as a consistent and reliable predictor of these important phenotypic parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3136-3141
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • bovine
  • metabolic activity
  • skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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