RAPID COMMUNICATION: Residual feed intake in beef cattle is associated with differences in protein turnover and nutrient transporters in ruminal epithelium

Ahmed A. Elolimy, Emad Abdel-Hamied, Liangyu Hu, Joshua C. McCann, Daniel W. Shike, Juan J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Residual feed intake (RFI) is a widely used measure of feed efficiency in cattle. Although the precise biologic mechanisms associated with improved feed efficiency are not well-known, most-efficient steers (i.e., with low RFI coefficient) downregulate abundance of proteins controlling protein degradation in skeletal muscle. Whether cellular mechanisms controlling protein turnover in ruminal tissue differ by RFI classification is unknown. The aim was to investigate associations between RFI and signaling through the mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) and ubiquitin-proteasome pathways in ruminal epithelium. One hundred and forty-nine Red Angus cattle were allocated to 3 contemporary groups according to sex and herd origin. Animals were offered a finishing diet for 70 d to calculate the RFI coefficient for each. Within each group, the 2 most-efficient (n = 6) and least-efficient animals (n = 6) were selected. Compared with least-efficient animals, the most-efficient animals consumed less feed (P < 0.05; 18.36 vs. 23.39 kg/d DMI). At day 70, plasma samples were collected for insulin concentration analysis. Ruminal epithelium was collected immediately after slaughter to determine abundance and phosphorylation status of 29 proteins associated with MTOR, ubiquitin-proteasome, insulin signaling, and glucose and amino acid transport. Among the proteins involved in cellular protein synthesis, most-efficient animals had lower (P ≤ 0.05) abundance of MTOR, p-MTOR, RPS6KB1, EIF2A, EEF2K, AKT1, and RPS6KB1, whereas MAPK3 tended (P = 0.07) to be lower. In contrast, abundance of p-EEF2K, p-EEF2K:EEF2K, and p-EIF2A:EIF2A in most-efficient animals was greater (P ≤ 0.05). Among proteins catalyzing steps required for protein degradation, the abundance of UBA1, NEDD4, and STUB1 was lower (P ≤ 0.05) and MDM2 tended (P = 0.06) to be lower in most-efficient cattle. Plasma insulin and ruminal epithelium insulin signaling proteins did not differ (P > 0.05) between RFI groups. However, abundance of the insulin-responsive glucose transporter SLC2A4 and the amino acid transporters SLC1A3 and SLC1A5 also was lower (P ≤ 0.05) in most-efficient cattle. Overall, the data indicate that differences in signaling mechanisms controlling protein turnover and nutrient transport in ruminal epithelium are components of feed efficiency in beef cattle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2187
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • beef cattle
  • insulin signaling
  • nutrient transporters
  • protein turnover
  • residual feed intake
  • ruminal epithelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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