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    Fatty acid (FA) profile is one of the most important aspects of the nutritional properties of milk. The FA content in milk is affected by several factors such as diet, physiology, environment, and genetics. Recently, principal component analysis (PCA) and multivariate factor analysis (MFA) have been used to summarize the complex correlation pattern of the milk FA profile by extracting a reduced number of new variables. In this work, the milk FA profile of a sample of 993 Sarda breed ewes was analyzed with PCA and MFA to compare the ability of these 2 multivariate statistical techniques in investigating the possible existence of latent substructures, and in studying the influence of physiological and environmental effects on the new extracted variables. Individual scores of PCA and MFA were analyzed with a mixed model that included the fixed effects of parity, days in milking, lambing month, number of lambs born, altitude of flock location, and the random effect of flock nested within altitude. Both techniques detected the same number of latent variables (9) explaining 80% of the total variance. In general, PCA structures were difficult to interpret, with only 4 principal components being associated with a clear meaning. Principal component 1 in particular was the easiest to interpret and agreed with the interpretation of the first factor, with both being associated with the FA of mammary origin. On the other hand, MFA was able to identify a clear structure for all the extracted latent variables, confirming the ability of this technique to group FA according to their function or metabolic origin. Key pathways of the milk FA metabolism were identified as mammary gland de novo synthesis, ruminal biohydrogenation, desaturation performed by stearoyl-coenzyme A desaturase enzyme, and rumen microbial activity, confirming previous findings in sheep and in other species. In general, the new extracted variables were mainly affected by physiological factors as days in milk, parity, and lambing month; the number of lambs born had no effect on the new variables, and altitude influenced only one principal component and factor. Both techniques were able to summarize a larger amount of the original variance into a reduced number of variables. Moreover, factor analysis confirmed its ability to identify latent common factors clearly related to FA metabolic pathways. Copyright © 2021 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


    F Correddu, A Cesarani, C Dimauro, G Gaspa, N P P Macciotta. Principal component and multivariate factor analysis of detailed sheep milk fatty acid profile. Journal of dairy science. 2021 Apr;104(4):5079-5094

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    PMID: 33516547

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