Feeding sheep concentrate-based diets increases the oleic acid content of their tissues, whereas the cis-9, trans-11 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content is increased by feeding forage diets. Both these metabolic transformations could be attributable to increased activity of stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD). Therefore, the effect of forage or concentrate feeding regimens on the fatty acid composition of sheep tissues were investigated to determine whether any changes are related to an alteration of SCD mRNA levels. Twenty-four ewe lambs were randomly allotted to one of three dietary treatment groups: 1) dehydrated grass pellets, 2) concentrate diet fed to achieve a growth rate similar to that of the dehydrated grass pellets, and 3) the same concentrate diet approaching ad libitum intake. As expected, animals fed ad libitum concentrates grew at a greater (P = 0.001) rate (280 g/d) than those fed either of the other two diets (180 g/d), which were similar. In samples of liver and the three adipose tissue depots studied, the concentration of oleic acid from sheep fed either level of the concentrate diet was greater (P < 0.001) than from animals fed forage. This was associated with an increase (P < 0.05) in the ratio of SCD to acetyl-CoA carboxylase mRNA in adipose tissue and liver. Compared with concentrate-fed, the forage-fed lambs had increased (P < 0.05) levels of the cis-9, trans-11 isomer of CLA and C18:1, trans-11 in all their tissues, although the levels of SCD mRNA were lower. It therefore seems that the increased oleic acid content of sheep tissues in response to concentrate-rich diets is associated with an increase in SCD gene expression. By contrast, the increased concentration of CLA in animals fed forage-based diets is associated with an increase in substrate (C18:1 trans-11) availability.
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