Fatty acid synthetase and lipoprotein lipase activities, lipid content of adipose tissue and the fatty acid composition of subcutaneous fat, sampled by biopsy at the 13th rib, were measured in 20-week-old rams from lines of Texel-Oxford (TO) and Scottish Blackface (SB) sheep, both divergently selected for carcass lean content. A total of 150 animals were measured, with close to equal numbers of animals per selection line-breed combination.
In both breeds, the high (lean) selection lines had significantly lower backfat depths (TO : 0·5 mm and SB : 0·6 mm, s.e.d. 0·2) than the low (fat) lines. The lipid content of subcutaneous fat was 65 mg lipid per g fat tissue wet weight (s.e.d. 24) greater in TO rams than in SB rams. The TO low line had a higher lipid content than the high selection line (426 v. 448 (s.e.d. 36)) and although the SB selection lines did not differ, the selection line with breed interaction was not significant. SB rams had higher fatty acid synthetase activity (3·1 v. 2·6 (s.e.d. 0·3) on a log scale) but there were no differences between selection lines. Lipoprotein lipase activities were similar between breeds and selection lines. The lower concentration of myristic acid (C14:0) of TO rams compared with SB rams (0·9 (s.e.d. 0·3)) was the only breed or selection line difference which was statistically significant for fatty acid composition of subcutaneous fat.
Lipid content of subcutaneous fat and lipoprotein lipase activity were highly correlated and both were positively correlated with performance test traits, especially with backfat depth. The correlation between backfat depth and fatty acid synthetase activity was not different from zero. Performance test traits, lipid content of subcutaneous fat and lipoprotein lipase activity were positively correlated with the unsaturated fatty acids, with the exception of C18 :1 when correlations were negative.