Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Glycogen debranching enzyme activity in the muscles of meat producing animals

Maria Ylä-Ajos

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Food Technology.

Muscle glycogen exists in two forms: low molecular weight pro-glycogen and high molecular weight macro-glycogen. The degradation of glycogen to glucose 1 phosphate and free glucose is catalysed by glycogen phosphorylase together with glycogen debranching enzyme (GDE). The process in which glycogen is broken down via anaerobic pathways to lactate, results in the acidification of the muscles and has a great influence on meat quality. Thus, the overall aim of this thesis was to characterise the post mortem action of GDE in muscles of meat production animals (pigs, cattle and chickens). Interest was focused on the differences in GDE activity between fast twitch glycolytic muscles and slow twitch oxidative muscles. The effects of pH, temperature, RN genotype (PRKAG3 gene), and of time post mortem on GDE activity were also investigated.

This thesis showed that there are differences in GDE activity between animal species and between different muscles of an animal. It was shown that in pigs and cattle, higher GDE activity and phosphorylase activity exists in the fast twitch glycolytic muscles than in slow twitch oxidative muscles of the same animal. Thus, the high activity of these enzymes enables a faster rate of glycogenolysis in glycolytic M. longissimus dorsi compared to oxidative M. masseter. In chicken muscles, the GDE activity was low compared to pig or cattle muscles. Furthermore, the GDE activity in the glycolytic M. pectoralis superficialis was lower than in more oxidative M. quadriceps femoris despite the high phosphorylase activity in the former. The relative ratios between phosphorylase and GDE activity were higher in fast twitch glycolytic muscles than in slow twitch oxidative muscles of all studied animals. This suggests that the relatively low GDE activity compared to the phosphorylase activity in fast twitch glycolytic muscles may be a protection mechanism in living muscle against a very fast pH decrease.

Chilling significantly decreased GDE activity and below 15 °C porcine GDE was almost inactive. The effect of pH on GDE activity was only minor at the range normally found in post mortem muscles (pH 7.4 to 5.0). The GDE activity remained level for several hours after slaughter. During the first hours post mortem, GDE activity was similar in RN- carrier pigs and in wild type pigs. However, the GDE activity declined faster in M. longissimus dorsi from wild type pigs than in the RN carrier pigs, the difference between genotypes was significant after 24 h post mortem. Pro-glycogen and macro-glycogen contents were higher, pH decrease was faster and ultimate pH was lower in RN- carrier pigs than in wild type pigs. In the RN- carriers, the prolonged high GDE activity level may enable an extended pH decrease and lower ultimate pH in their muscles.

In conclusion, GDE is not the main factor determining the rate or the extent of post mortem glycogenolysis, but under certain conditions, such as in very fast chilling, the inhibition of GDE activity in meat may reduce the rate of pH decrease and result in higher ultimate pH. The rate and extent of pH decrease affects several meat quality traits.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 04.10.2006

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