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Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle


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Intramuscular fat (IMF) and intramuscular connective tissue (IMC) are often seen in human myopathies and are central to beef quality. The mechanisms regulating their accumulation remain poorly understood. Here, we explored the possibility of using beef cattle as a novel model for mechanistic studies of intramuscular adipogenesis and fibrogenesis.


Skeletal muscle single-cell RNAseq was performed on three cattle breeds, including Wagyu (high IMF), Brahman (abundant IMC but scarce IMF), and Wagyu/Brahman cross. Sophisticated bioinformatics analyses, including clustering analysis, gene set enrichment analyses, gene regulatory network construction, RNA velocity, pseudotime analysis, and cell-cell communication analysis, were performed to elucidate heterogeneities and differentiation processes of individual cell types and differences between cattle breeds. Experiments were conducted to validate the function and specificity of identified key regulatory and marker genes. Integrated analysis with multiple published human and non-human primate datasets was performed to identify common mechanisms.


A total of 32 708 cells and 21 clusters were identified, including fibro/adipogenic progenitor (FAP) and other resident and infiltrating cell types. We identified an endomysial adipogenic FAP subpopulation enriched for COL4A1 and CFD (log2FC = 3.19 and 1.92, respectively; P < 0.0001) and a perimysial fibrogenic FAP subpopulation enriched for COL1A1 and POSTN (log2FC = 1.83 and 0.87, respectively; P < 0.0001), both of which were likely derived from an unspecified subpopulation. Further analysis revealed more progressed adipogenic programming of Wagyu FAPs and more advanced fibrogenic programming of Brahman FAPs. Mechanistically, NAB2 drives CFD expression, which in turn promotes adipogenesis. CFD expression in FAPs of young cattle before the onset of intramuscular adipogenesis was predictive of IMF contents in adulthood (R2 = 0.885, P < 0.01). Similar adipogenic and fibrogenic FAPs were identified in humans and monkeys. In aged humans with metabolic syndrome and progressed Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients, increased CFD expression was observed (P < 0.05 and P < 0.0001, respectively), which was positively correlated with adipogenic marker expression, including ADIPOQ (R2 = 0.303, P < 0.01; and R2 = 0.348, P < 0.01, respectively). The specificity of Postn/POSTN as a fibrogenic FAP marker was validated using a lineage-tracing mouse line. POSTN expression was elevated in Brahman FAPs (P < 0.0001) and DMD patients (P < 0.01) but not in aged humans. Strong interactions between vascular cells and FAPs were also identified.


Our study demonstrates the feasibility of beef cattle as a model for studying IMF and IMC. We illustrate the FAP programming during intramuscular adipogenesis and fibrogenesis and reveal the reliability of CFD as a predictor and biomarker of IMF accumulation in cattle and humans.


© 2023 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Original Publication Citation

Wang, L., Gao, P., Li, C., Liu, Q., Yao, Z., Li, Y., Zhang, X., Sun, J., Simintiras, C., Welborn, M., McMillin, K., Oprescu, S., Kuang, S., & Fu, X. (2023). A single-cell atlas of bovine skeletal muscle reveals mechanisms regulating intramuscular adipogenesis and fibrogenesis. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 1-16.


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