Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Use of genetic markers to breed pigs adapted for low salted dry hams

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.02.00  Biotechnical sciences  Animal production   

Code Science Field
B400  Biomedical sciences  Zootechny, animal husbandry, breeding 
T430  Technological sciences  Food and drink technology 
P004  Natural sciences and mathematics  Biochemistry, Metabolism 
genetic polymorphism; meat quality; dry ham; proteolysis
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (7)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  05658  PhD Drago Babnik  Animal production  Researcher  2007 - 2009  361 
2.  11233  PhD Marjeta Čandek Potokar  Animal production  Principal Researcher  2007 - 2009  741 
3.  07783  PhD Lea Demšar  Animal production  Researcher  2007 - 2009  441 
4.  18981  PhD Tatjana Kavar  Animal production  Researcher  2007 - 2009  75 
5.  08596  MSc Blaž Šegula  Animal production  Researcher  2007 - 2009  221 
6.  27589  PhD Martin Škrlep  Animal production  Junior researcher  2007 - 2009  316 
7.  03100  PhD Božidar Žlender  Animal production  Researcher  2007 - 2009  748 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0401  Agricultural institute of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5055431  19,454 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,542 
The problem of reducing salt content in dry hams relates to enhanced proteolysis, responsible for loss of sensory (mainly texture) and processing qualities. In case of traditional dry hams (e.g. Jambon de Bayonne, Jamón Serrano, Kraški pršut), there is a widespread tendency to increase processing length and thus improve sensory quality. It has been suggested, that using meat with lower proteolytic potential would counterbalance the unfavourable effect of reduced salt levels. Recently, genetic polymorphism affecting activity of proteases in pig muscle, has been demonstrated. So an alternative approach would be possible i.e. to breed pig genotypes, which express reduced proteolysis in post mortem muscle maturation. The research project which is foreseen aims at identifying suitable markers - two candidate genes (CAST and PRKAG3) to select pigs with lower proteolytic potential for the production of long aged “reduced salt” traditional hams.
Significance for science
The idea for the study originates in the possible use of genetic markers for dry-cured hams with reduced salt content, namely their effect on the properties of raw material (pig legs) and as a consequence the process of maturation and product quality. Recent studies in the literature have indicated candidate genes (PRKAG3 and CAST), however virtually no data in the literature is available on their importance in view of dry-cured ham processing. Our results revealed a significant effect of PRKAG3 Ile199Val polymorphism, whereas in our conditions, the effect of polymorphisms CAST Lys249Arg and Ser638Arg were negligible. In our study, the beneficial effect for dry-cured ham of 199Ile allele was determined, and associated with lower dehydration (seasoning) losses, lower salt content and better sensory properties of dry-cured ham. It must be emphasized that the effects of genes varied according to the manufacturer or differed in three parallel experiments (three countries, three lines) with the same protocol, which suggests interaction with other factors. The originality of the research is furthermore in the use of proteomics tools (2DE coupled with mass spectrometry) to assess proteolysis, since hardly any studies are available in the literature on dry-cured ham and if, they are pioneer. Our analysis shows a significant effect of ham pH and salt content on the proteomic profile of dry ham muscle, while the effect of studied genes are less clear. In this context the effect of polymorphisms in both genes CAST and PRKAG3 remains largely unclear, although it suggests a link between the muscle metabolic profile and PRKAG3 gene. This is partly due to methodological limitations, and very likely to the fact, that Slovenian dry-cured ham “kraški pršut” has relatively high salt level and practically no pastiness problem, which may also be the reason for less pronounced differences. The results were the subject of several scientific publications. In addition to four published articles, one is in the press, two in the process of review, and one under preparation. We also presented results on three international congresses (ASD, ICOMST, EFFoST).
Significance for the country
The project adresses the quality of traditional, geographically protected product, given special attention in EU policy and important in view of cultural heritage and identity. Reduction of salt intake is an important issue of food quality and safety, the priority themes in public health and agricultural policy, with the elements of potential impact on the competitiveness of the whole chain. Project results can serve to potential innovations (reduction of salt) in the sector of traditional food. The project deals with the effect of two genes, which have so far been little investigated. The results suggest, that PRKAG3 gene, in particular the beneficial effect of allel 199Ile, is interesting for dry ham production. However, in the present Slovenian situation its frequency is very low. Results confirm that dry-cured ham producer should put more emphasis on the origin and quality of raw material (nutrition, genetics) which is nowdays limited, as the provision comes predominantly from larger EU market. Better vertical integration in the sector within Slovenia, has not only the potential to improve product quality, but also the competitiveness of the whole chain, in particular important for pig production which is in crisis. The project provides a progress in knowledge and human resources on the subject which form a bridge between food production and processing. The acquired new knowledge will be included in the lectures given by project leader at Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Maribor. The project also served for the formation of young researcher who has developed this theme in a doctoral dissertation. We attach importance also to the fact that the name of Slovenian traditional dry ham "Kraški pršut" appeared for the first time in this form/with its original name in the international literature and thus increases the international recognition of our traditional product .
Most important scientific results Annual report 2008, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2008, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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