Vitamin A regulates intramuscular adipose tissue and muscle development: promoting high-quality beef production. Academic Article uri icon


  • During growth in cattle, the development of intramuscular adipose tissue and muscle is dependent upon cell hyperplasia (increased number of adipocytes) and hypertrophy (increased size of adipocytes). Based on the results of previous studies, other adipose tissue depots (e.g., perirenal and subcutaneous) develop from the fetal stage primarily as brown adipose tissue. The hyperplastic stage of intramuscular adipose is considered to develop from late pregnancy, but there is no evidence indicating that intramuscular adipose tissue develops initially as brown adipose tissue. Hyperplastic growth of intramuscular adipose continues well into postweaning and is dependent on the timing of the transition to grain-based diets; thereafter, the late-stage development of intramuscular adipose tissue is dominated by hypertrophy. For muscle development, hyperplasia of myoblasts lasts from early (following development of somites in the embryo) to middle pregnancy, after which growth of muscle is the result of hypertrophy of myofibers. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble compound that is required for the normal immunologic function, vision, cellular proliferation, and differentiation. Here we review the roles of vitamin A in intramuscular adipose tissue and muscle development in cattle. Vitamin A regulates both hyperplasia and hypertrophy in in vitro experiments. Vitamin A supplementation at the early stage and restriction at fattening stage generate opposite effects in the beef cattle. Appropriate vitamin A supplementation and restriction strategy increase intramuscular adipose tissue development (i.e., marbling or intramuscular fat) in some in vivo trials. Besides, hyperplasia and hypertrophy of myoblasts/myotubes were affected by vitamin A treatment in in vitro trials. Additionally, some studies reported an interaction between the alcohol dehydrogenase-1C (ADH1C) genotype and vitamin A feed restriction for the development of marbling and/or intramuscular adipose tissue, which was dependent on the timing and level of vitamin A restriction. Therefore, the feed strategy of vitamin A has the visible impact on the marbling and muscle development in the cattle, which will be helpful to promote the quality of the beef.

published proceedings

  • J Anim Sci Biotechnol

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Peng, D. Q., Smith, S. B., & Lee, H. G.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Peng, Dong Qiao||Smith, Stephen B||Lee, Hong Gu

publication date

  • March 2021