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Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2019 Aug;32(8):1172-1185. doi: 10.5713/ajas.18.0648. Epub 2019 Jan 4.

Metabolomic approach to key metabolites characterizing postmortem aged loin muscle of Japanese Black (Wagyu) cattle.

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Muscle Biology Research Unit, Animal Products Research Division, NARO Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0901, Japan.
NARO Tohoku Agricultural Research Center, Morioka, Iwate 020-0198, Japan.

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Meat quality attributes in postmortem muscle tissues depend on skeletal muscle metabolites. The objective of this study was to determine the key metabolic compounds and pathways that are associated with postmortem aging and beef quality in Japanese Black cattle (JB; a Japanese Wagyu breed with highly marbled beef).


Lean portions of Longissimus thoracis (LT: loin) muscle in 3 JB steers were collected at 0, 1, and 14 days after slaughter. The metabolomic profiles of the samples were analyzed by capillary electrophoresis time-of-flight mass spectrometry, followed by statistical and multivariate analyses with bioinformatics resources.


Among the total 171 annotated compounds, the contents of gluconic acid, gluconolactone, spermidine, and the nutritionally vital substances (choline, thiamine, and nicotinamide) were elevated through the course of postmortem aging. The contents of glycolytic compounds increased along with the generation of lactic acid as the beef aging progressed. Moreover, the contents of several dipeptides and 16 amino acids, including glutamate and aromatic and branched-chain amino acids, were elevated over time, suggesting postmortem protein degradation in the muscle. Adenosine triphosphate degradation also progressed, resulting in the generation of inosine, xanthine, and hypoxanthine via the temporal increase in inosine 5'-monophosphate. Cysteine-glutathione disulfide, thiamine, and choline increased over time during the postmortem muscle aging. In the Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes database, a bioinformatics resource, the postmortem metabolomic changes in LT muscle were characterized as pathways mainly related to protein digestion, glycolysis, citric acid cycle, pyruvate metabolism, pentose phosphate metabolism, nicotinamide metabolism, glycerophospholipid metabolism, purine metabolism, and glutathione metabolism.


The compounds accumulating in aged beef were shown to be nutritionally vital substances and flavor components, as well as potential useful biomarkers of aging. The present metabolomic data during postmortem aging contribute to further understanding of the beef quality of JB and other breeds.


Beef; Capillary Electrophoresis Time-of-flight Mass Spectrometry (CE-TOFMS); Japanese Black; Metabolomics; Postmortem Aging; Wagyu

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