Ir para o conteúdo

Quality of Animal Products

Lab Overview


The laboratory of Quality of Animal Products is devoted to manipulate fat deposition in livestock species aiming at improving production efficiency and sustainability, meat quality and human health. Our work is organized in two research lines: (1) Development of novel feeding strategies to improve fat partitioning and products quality; and (2) Valorization of bioactive lipids to reduce animal adiposity and improve human health.


Our research team has consolidated expertise in animal lipid metabolism and meat quality, as well as on molecular, genetic and cellular mechanisms underlying signalling pathways that regulate the deposition of adipose tissue and fatty acids. Our research work uses advanced analytical and instrumental methodologies, including HPLC-ECD, HPLC-DAD/FD, GC-FID, GC-MS, FPLC, ELISA, Luminex, RIA, Blotting, microarrays, miRNAs and RT-qPCR.


Highlights in the period

Notable outcomes on the period 2013-2017 have been achieved by our group for both research lines, as follows:

Development of effective nutritional strategies to improve fat partitioning and disclosed that intramuscular fat deposition in pigs is mediated by shifting the metabolic properties of muscle fibers, by higher fluidity of adipose membranes and by the up-regulation of key lipogenic enzymes and transcription factors. Moreover, we firstly elucidated that dietary lysine restriction improves fat partitioning in lean pig but not in fatty pig genotypes.

The thorough investigation of biological effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), in several mammalian models, contributed to explain some of the reported health benefits of these isomers (the reducing weight properties of CLA are due to adipocyte apoptosis and increased adipocyte plasma membrane glycerol fluxes; CLA is able to influence the biosynthesis of bioactive endocannabinoids that may contribute to ameliorate fatty liver). In addition, novel anti‐adipogenic properties of the individual trans8,cis10 CLA isomer has been firstly described by us.


It was also elucidated that the combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil, but not from microalgae, can counteract the undesirable health effects of saturated fat based diets and benefit neurological function. We also have shown that the incorporation of DHA in tissues is higher when it is ingested as triacylglycerols (TAG) structured at the sn-2 position, which enhances efficacy and health benefits of dietary DHA n-3 supplementation.


Selected Publications


1. Lopes, P.A., Bandarra, N.M., Martins, S.V., Martinho, J., Alfaia, C.M., Madeira, M.S., Cardoso, C., Afonso, C., Paulo, M.C., Pinto, R.M.A., Guil-Guerrero, J.L., Prates, J.A.M., (2017). Markers of neuroprotection of combined EPA and DHA provided by fish oil are higher than those of EPA (Nannochloropsis) and DHA (Schizochytrium) from microalgae oils in Wistar rats. Nutr. Metabol. 14:62.

2. Madeira, M.S., Lopes, P.A., Costa, P., Coelho, D., Alfaia, C.M., Prates, J.A.M., (2017). Reduced protein diets increase intramuscular fat of psoas major, a red muscle, in lean and fatty pig genotypes. Animal 11:2094-2102.

3. Bandarra, N.M., Lopes, P.A., Martins, S.V., Ferreira, J., Alfaia, C.M., Rolo, E.R., Correia, J.J., Pinto, R.M.A., Ramos-Bueno, R.P., Batista, I., Prates, J.A.M., Guil-Guerrero, J.L. (2016). DHA at the sn-2 position of structured triacylglycerols improved n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid assimilation in tissues of hamsters. Nutr. Res. 36:452-463.

4. Madeira, M.S., Rolo, E. A., Alfaia, C. M., Pires, V. R., Luxton, R., Doran, O., Bessa, R. J. B., Prates, J. A. M. (2016). Influence of betaine and arginine supplementation of reduced protein diets on fatty acid composition and gene expression in the muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue of crossbred pigs. Br. J. Nutr. 115:937-950.

5. Pires, V.M.R., Madeira, M.S., Dowle, A.A., Thomas, J., Almeida, A.M., Prates, J.A.M., (2016). Increased intramuscular fat induced by reduced dietary protein in finishing pigs: effects on the longissimus lumborum muscle proteome. Molecular Biosystems 12: 2447-2457.

6. Madeira, M. S., Alfaia, C. M., Costa, P., Lopes, P. A., Martins, S. V., Lemos, J. P. C., Moreira, O., Santos-Silva, J., Bessa, R. J. B., Prates, J. A. M. (2015). Effect of betaine and arginine in lysine-deficient diets on growth, carcass traits and pork quality. J. Anim. Sci. 93:4721-4733.

7. Piras, A., Carta, G., Murru, E., Lopes, P.A., Martins, S.V., Prates, J.A.M., Banni, S. (2015). Effects of dietary CLA on n-3 HUFA score and N-acylethanolamides biosynthesis in the liver of obese Zucker rats. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes Essent. Fatty Acids  98:15-19.

8. Rodrigues, P.O., Martins, S.V., Lopes, P.A., Ramos, C., Miguéis, S., Alfaia, C.M., Pinto, R.M.A., Rolo, E.A., Bispo, P., Batista, I., Bandarra, N.M., Prates, J.A.M. (2014). Influence of feeding graded levels of canned sardines on the inflammatory markers and tissue fatty acid composition of Wistar rats. Br. J. Nutr. 112:309-319.

9. Lopes, P.A., Costa, A.S.H., Costa, P., Pires, V.M.R., Madeira, M.S., Achega, F., Pinto, R.M.A., Prates, J.A.M. (2014). Contrasting cellularity on fat deposition in the subcutaneous adipose tissue and longissimus lumborum muscle from lean and fat pigs under dietary protein reduction. Animal 8:629-637. 

10. Madeira, M.S., Pires, V.M.R., Alfaia, C.M., Luxton, R., Doran, O., Bessa, R.J.B., Prates, J.A.M. (2014). Combined effects of dietary arginine, leucine and protein levels on fatty acid composition and gene expression in the muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue of crossbred pigs. Br. J. Nutr. 111:1521-1535.


Major Collaborations


European Network COST - IPEMA

     José A.M. Prates is a Management Committee Member of COST action 2015 IPEMA (oc-2015-2-20148), involving 29 Institutions and Companies from 20 countries, including German, English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Switzerland and Canadian Universities.

 European Network COST - PIGUTNET

José A.M. Prates is a Management Committee Member of COST action 2014 (FA1401 – Food and Agriculture) "PiGutNet” (oc-2013-2-16276), involving 29 Institutions and Companies from 17 countries, including Italian, Dutch, Polish, Swedish and English Universities.


Fidel Toldrá, Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (Valencia, Spain)

Francisco Pérez, University Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain)

Guil-Guerrero, University of Almeria (Spain)

Julieta Engrácia, University Mesquita Filho (São Paulo, Brasil)

Olena Doran, University of The West of England (Bristol, UK)

Paolo Trevisi, University of Bologna (Italy)

Sebastiano Banni, University of Cagliari (Italy)

Tristan Chalvondemer, Ajinomoto (Japan)

Ulrike Weiler, University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart, Germany).



Workshops for High School Students (Verão na UTL), 2013.

Workshops for High School Students (Verão na ULisboa), annually from 2014 to 2017.


Advanced Studies (PhD and MSc thesis)

In the period of 2013-2017, 5 PhD and 15 MSc were awarded to young scientists working in the lab under the supervision of members of the team.