Temperament influences mitochondrial capacity in skeletal muscle from 8 through 18 mo of age in Brahman heifers.
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Temperamental cattle tend to yield carcasses of poorer quality, and Brahman cattle are reportedly more temperamental than non-indicus cattle breeds. A potential link between temperament and product quality may be mitochondrial activity. We hypothesized that mitochondrial measures would be greater in temperamental compared with calm heifers and that the relationships between temperament and mitochondria would persist as heifers age. Serum cortisol and skeletal muscle (longissimus thoracis [LT] and trapezius [TRAP]) mitochondrial profiles and antioxidant activities were quantified from the same calm (n = 6) and temperamental (n = 6) Brahman heifers at 8, 12, and 18 mo of age. Data were analyzed using a mixed model ANOVA in SAS (9.4) with repeated measures. Serum cortisol was greater in temperamental compared with calm heifers throughout the study (P = 0.02). Mitochondrial volume density (citrate synthase [CS] activity) increased over time (P < 0.0001) but was similar between temperament and muscle groups. Mitochondrial function (cytochrome c oxidase activity) was greatest in the temperamental LT at 8 mo of age (P 0.0006), greatest in the temperamental TRAP at 18 mo of age (P 0.003), and did not differ by temperament at 12 mo of age. Integrative (relative to tissue wet weight) mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation capacity with complex I substrates (PCI), PCI plus complex II substrate (PCI+II), noncoupled electron transfer system capacity (ECI+II), and E with functional complex II only (ECII) were greater in the TRAP than LT for calm heifers at all ages (P 0.002), but were similar between muscle groups in temperamental heifers. Overall, calm heifers tended to have greater intrinsic (relative to CS activity) PCI and flux control of PCI+II (P 0.1) than temperamental heifers, indicating greater utilization of complex I paired with greater coupling efficiency in calm heifers. Within the LT, integrative PCI+II was greater (P = 0.05) and ECI+II tended to be greater (P = 0.06) in temperamental compared with calm heifers. From 8- to 18-mo old, glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity decreased (P < 0.0001) and superoxide dismutase activity increased (P = 0.02), and both were similar between muscle groups. The activity of GPx was greater in temperamental compared with calm heifers at 8 (P = 0.004) but not at 12 or 18 mo of age. These results detail divergent skeletal muscle mitochondrial characteristics of live Brahman heifers according to temperament, which should be further investigated as a potential link between temperament and product quality.