Start Date: Jul 30, 2007
End Date: Jul 29, 2012
This project addresses the need to understand regulatory mechanisms of feed intake and nutrient utilization in poultry species through identification and study of individual genes and gene products involved in these complex and economically important production traits. The first objective will investigate genes controlling feed intake and nutrient utilization and to determine how their expression is affected during the critical adaptation to feeding initiation occurring during early post-hatch development of broiler chickens and turkeys. The consequences of feed restriction and refeeding on expression of genes and gene products involved in key control points for feed intake and metabolic activity at different ages and stages of poultry production will be determined. Two genetic lines of chickens, selected for high and low body weight, will be studied to compare and contrast changes in gene and gene product expression and plasma metabolite and metabolic hormone patterns characteristic of these two phenotypes and to determine how such changes may relate to the marked differences in feed intake and metabolism exhibited by both lines. A second objective will determine the effects of feeding broilers varying levels of crude protein, individual amino acids or carbohydrate on the expression of genes and gene products that play important roles in growth and energy balance and to correlate gene expression and endocrine profiles with changes in whole body parameters such a fat accretion, meat yield and skeletal growth in broilers during the different phases of the production cycle. Broiler chickens and turkey poults from hatch to 4 weeks of age will be administered substances known to affect nutrient levels, endocrine profiles, metabolic activity and feed intake to determine relationships between these parameters and peripheral tissue and central nervous system regulatory mechanisms. Expression of candidate genes will be assayed in chicken and turkey tissue samples using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays. Total RNA from broiler liver, hypothalamus, breast muscle and duodenum tissues sampled at hatch (day 0) and on day 7 post-hatch will be subjected to in-depth replicated microarray screening to determine changes in gene expression related to the initiation of feeding. Plasma samples will be analyzed for metabolite/nutrient levels and a series of metabolic hormones. Tissues will be analyzed for enzyme activities, in vitro lipogenic activity, nutrient-sensing transcription factors, and activity of specific kinase pathways. Information on metabolic and endocrine profiles will then be correlated with changes in gene expression with particular emphasis on those genes whose expression is responsive to nutrient and/or hormonal signaling. This functional genomics approach will yield new information about genes encoding important regulatory factors such as hormones, neuropeptides, receptors, transporters, enzymes and transcription factors that together form a complex and interrelated series of neural, endocrine and metabolic pathway networks working in concert to control feed intake and nutrient utilization in poultry.