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Seasonal energy intake of Tibetan sheep on the harsh Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) fluctuates greatly and is often well below maintenance requirements. The aim of this study was to gain insight into how the hypothalamus regulates energy homoeostasis in Tibetan sheep. We compared Tibetan and Small-tailed Han sheep (n 24 of each breed), which were each allocated randomly into four groups and offered one of four diets that differed in digestible energy densities: 8·21, 9·33, 10·45 and 11·57 MJ/kg DM. Sheep were weighed every 2 weeks, and it was assumed that the change in body weight (BW) reflected the change in energy balance. The arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in Tibetan sheep had greater protein expressions of neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related peptide (AgRP) when in negative energy balance, but lesser protein expressions of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) when in positive energy balance than Small-tailed Han sheep. As a result, Tibetan sheep had a lesser BW loss when in negative energy balance and stored more energy and gained more BW when in positive energy balance than Small-tailed Han sheep with the same dietary intake. Moreover, in the hypothalamic adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) regulation pathway, Tibetan sheep had greater adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase-α 2 protein expression than Small-tailed Han sheep, which supported the premise of a better ability to regulate energy homoeostasis and better growth performance. These differences in the hypothalamic NPY/AgRP, POMC/CART and AMPK pathways between breeds conferred an advantage to the Tibetan over Small-tailed Han sheep to cope with low energy intake on the harsh QTP.
This study aimed to gain insight into how adipose tissue of Tibetan sheep regulates energy homoeostasis to cope with low energy intake under the harsh environment of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). We compared Tibetan and Small-tailed Han sheep (n 24 of each breed), all wethers and 1·5 years of age, which were each divided randomly into four groups and offered diets of different digestible energy (DE) densities: 8·21, 9·33, 10·45 and 11·57 MJ DE/kg DM. When the sheep lost body mass and were assumed to be in negative energy balance: (1) adipocyte diameter in subcutaneous adipose tissue was smaller and decreased to a greater extent in Tibetan than in Small-tailed Han sheep, but the opposite occurred in the visceral adipose tissue; (2) Tibetan sheep showed higher insulin receptor mRNA expression and lower concentrations of catabolic hormones than Small-tailed Han sheep and (3) Tibetan sheep had lower capacity for glucose and fatty acid uptake than Small-tailed Han sheep. Moreover, Tibetan sheep had lower AMPKα mRNA expression but higher mammalian target of rapamycin mRNA expression in the adipocytes than Small-tailed Han sheep. We concluded that Tibetan sheep had lower catabolism but higher anabolism in adipose tissue and reduced the capacity for glucose and fatty acid uptake to a greater extent than Small-tailed Han sheep to maintain energy homoeostasis when in negative energy balance. These responses provide Tibetan sheep with a high ability to cope with low energy intake and with the harsh environment of the QTP.
The nutritional intake of Tibetan sheep on the harsh Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is often under maintenance requirements, especially during the long, cold winter. However, they have adapted well and even thrive under these conditions. The aim of the present study was to gain insight into how the rumen epithelium of Tibetan sheep has adapted to the consumption of low-energy-level diets. For this purpose, we compared Tibetan and small-tailed Han sheep (n 24 of each breed, all wethers and 1·5 years of age), which were divided randomly into one of four groups and offered ad libitum diets of different digestible energy (DE) densities: 8·21, 9·33, 10·45 and 11·57 MJ DE/kg DM. The Tibetan sheep had higher rumen concentrations of total SCFA, acetate, butyrate and iso-acids but lower concentrations of propionate than small-tailed Han sheep. The Tibetan sheep had higher absorption capability of SCFA due to the greater absorption surface area and higher mRNA expression of the SCFA absorption relative genes than small-tailed Han sheep. For the metabolism of SCFA in the rumen epithelium, the small-tailed Han sheep showed higher utilisation of the ketogenesis pathway than Tibetan sheep; however, Tibetan sheep had greater regulation capacity in SCFA metabolism pathways. These differences between breeds allowed the Tibetan sheep to have greater capability of absorbing SCFA and better capacity to regulate the metabolism of SCFA, which would allow them to cope with low energy intake better than small-tailed Han sheep.
An experiment was conducted to study the seasonal changes in the fatty acid profile of milk from yaks (Bos grunniens) when kept at altitudes of 3000 m above sea level (a.s.l.) and higher. Data and samples were collected in summer (July), autumn (September), winter (November) and spring (March) from ten lactating yaks (four in spring). The yaks grazed pastures adjacent to the farm building throughout the year. In spring only they received 0·6 kg crop by-products per day (dry matter basis). Fresh alpine grasses, available in summer and autumn, showed high concentrations of α-linolenic acid (46–51 g/100 g lipids) compared with the dry, yellow vegetation of winter and spring (16 g/100 g lipids). In autumn and summer, the milk fat had higher concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids than in winter. These polyunsaturated fatty acids were comprised of vaccenic acid, rumenic acid and α-linolenic acid, which are all considered beneficial to human health. The rare fatty acid, γ-linolenic acid, was also detected in yak milk, especially in the milk obtained in spring. The results suggest that yak milk, which is the most important basic food of the Tibetan herders, has the most favourable fatty acid profile when yaks grazed green pasture, which also corresponds to the period of highest milk production.
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