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Albumen was removed from broiler eggs before the start of incubation to induce prenatal protein under-nutrition in chicken embryos. With this method, the direct effect of protein deficiency was investigated, differing from mammalian models manipulating the maternal diet where indirect, hormonal effects can interfere. Based on the estimated albumen/egg weight ratio, 10 % of albumen was removed with an 18G needle, after making a hole at the sharp end of the egg with another 18G needle. Eggs were taped thereafter. The sham group underwent the same procedure, except that no albumen was removed. Control eggs did not receive any treatment. The removal of albumen decreased both embryonic and post-hatch body weight up to day 7 compared with the control group. On embryonic day 18, embryos from the albumen-deprived group had higher plasma uric acid levels compared with the sham (P= 0·016) and control (P= 0·009) groups. Moreover, a lower plasma amino acid concentration was observed at hatch compared with the sham (P= 0·038) and control (P= 0·152) groups. These findings indicate an altered protein metabolism. At hatch, a higher mRNA expression of muscle ring finger-1 (MuRF1), a gene related to proteolysis, was observed in albumen-deprived chicks compared with the control and sham chicks, together with an up-regulated expression of atrogin-1 (another atrogene) at this time point in the male protein-deficient chicks. These findings suggest that muscle proteolysis is transiently increased by the removal of albumen before the start of incubation. No evidence was found for altered protein synthesis capacity and translational efficiency in albumen-deprived chicks.
Besides its typical role as an amino acid in protein synthesis, methionine is an important intermediate in methylation reactions. In addition, it can also be converted to cysteine and hence plays a role in the defence against oxidative stress. The present study was conducted to investigate further the role of dl-methionine (DLM) and its hydroxy analogue, dl-2-hydroxy-4-methylthiobutanoic acid (DL-HMTBA), on zootechnical performance and oxidative status of broiler chickens. Male broiler chickens were reared on two diets differing in crude protein (CP) content (low-protein, 18·3 % v. high-protein, 23·2 % CP) and were supplemented either with 0·25 % DLM or 0·25 % DL-HMTBA. Reducing the dietary protein content resulted in an impaired body weight gain (P < 0·0001). However, supplementation of DL-HMTBA to the low-protein diet partially alleviated these negative effects (P = 0·0003). This latter phenomenon could be explained by the fact that chickens fed DL-HMTBA-supplemented diets displayed a better antioxidant status as reflected in lower lipid peroxidation probably as a consequence of their higher hepatic concentrations of total and reduced glutathione compared with their DLM counterparts. On the other hand, within the high protein levels, uric acid might be an important antioxidant to explain the lower lipid peroxidation of high-protein DL-HMTBA-supplemented chickens. Hepatic methionine sulfoxide reductase-A gene expression was not significantly affected by the dietary treatments. In conclusion, the present study indicates that there are interactions between dietary protein content and supplementation of methionine analogues with respect to broiler performance and antioxidant status, also suggesting a causal link between these traits.
The cytoplasmic serine/threonine ribosomal protein S6 kinase (S6K1) plays a critical role in controlling protein translation. There is evidence that amino acids regulate S6K1 and protein synthesis in avian species, but the effect of dietary protein level on the activation of S6K1 in neonatal chicks is unknown. Therefore, the aim of the present experiment was to investigate the effect of different protein levels, supplied during the first 5 d post-hatch, on body growth, breast muscle development and on the activation of S6K1 and its downstream target, the S6, in neonatal chicks. Chicks were fed a pre-starter diet during the first 5 d post-hatch containing low (19·6 % crude protein (CP); LP), medium (23·1 % CP; MP) or high (26·7 % CP) levels (HP) of protein. Weight gain of chicks fed the HP diet was higher (P < 0·05) compared with those fed the LP diet during day (d)3–d5 and the numerical advantage of this group was maintained from d2 to d7. On d2 and d3, greater levels of S6K1 and S6 phosphorylation and/or activity were observed in chicks receiving the HP diet compared with LP and MP diets, without differences between results of the latter two dietary treatments. In conclusion, the present results suggest that early protein nutrition impacts the development of broiler chicks.
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