Intermuscular variation in tenderness: association with the ubiquitous and muscle-specific calpains

J Anim Sci. 2001 Jan;79(1):122-32. doi: 10.2527/2001.791122x.


The biochemistry of intermuscular variation in tenderness is not fully understood. To investigate the role of the calpains in this process we performed two experiments using bovine and ovine species. In the bovine experiment, two distinct muscles, longissimus thoracis et lumborum (LT) and psoas major (PM), were used. In the ovine experiment, four muscles, LT, PM, semimembranosus (SM), and semitendinosus (ST), were used. Muscles were sampled at death for the determination of the steady-state mRNA level of calpains and calpastatin and the activities of calpain 1, 2, and calpastatin. Muscles were also sampled to determine the temporal changes in pH, tenderness, and the activity of the ubiquitous calpain system during postmortem aging. The results of the relative rate of tenderization in both species was found to be related to muscle type; LT had the highest value in both species. Within species, the mRNA steady-state levels of calpain 1 and calpastatin were similar in various bovine and ovine muscles. Bovine calpain 2 mRNA level was significantly lower in the LT than in the PM. Ovine calpain 2 mRNA level was lower, but not significantly different, in the LT compared to the other muscles. The mRNA level of bovine calpain 3 was significantly higher in the LT muscle than in the PM. In the ovine, the mRNA level of calpain 3 was highest in the LT, followed by SM, PM, and ST. Results on the activity of the ubiquitous calpain system in various muscles at death were dependent on muscle type and species. Temporal changes in the activity of calpains and calpastatin during the first 24 h of postmortem aging were similar in the muscles studied: calpain 1 and calpastatin declined significantly and calpain 2 remained relatively unchanged. The temporal changes in muscle pH in both experiments indicated that the extent and rate of pH decline during aging was related to muscle type. Correlation analysis between the relative rate of tenderization and mRNA expression of calpains revealed a strong relationship with calpain 3 in both species.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • Calpain / analysis*
  • Calpain / genetics
  • Cattle
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / analysis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Meat / standards*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Sheep
  • Single-Strand Specific DNA and RNA Endonucleases / metabolism


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • calpastatin
  • Single-Strand Specific DNA and RNA Endonucleases
  • Calpain