Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 17, 2002
Publication Date: June 1, 2003
Citation: Richards, M.P. 2003. Genetic Regulation of feed intake and energy balance in poultry. Poultry Science. 82:907-916. Interpretive Summary: Poultry producers have, over the years, intensively selected for lines of chickens and turkeys that grow faster and produce more meat than previous generations. Unfortunately, along with these improvements have come some unintended changes in feed intake and body composition. For example, modern commercial strains of broiler chickens tend to overeat when given free access to feed. This can lead to obesity and other health-related problems if the birds are not restricted in their access to feed. Therefore, it is important to understand the genetic regulatory mechanism for controlling feed intake and energy balance in poultry. This manuscript examines what is currently known about the regulation of feed intake and body weight in poultry. A better understanding of the genes associated with controlling feed intake and energy balance and how their expression is regulated by nutritional and hormonal stimuli will offer new insights into current poultry breeding and management practices. This information will be useful to researchers studying the control of appetite and body weight in avian species, as well as, producers in formulating new genetic selection and feeding strategies for commercial poultry flocks.
Technical Abstract: Intensive selection by poultry breeders over many generations for economically important production traits such as growth rate and meat production has been accompanied by significant changes in feed intake and energy balance. For example, the modern commercial broiler, selected for rapid growth and enhanced muscle mass, does not adequately regulate voluntary feed intake to achieve energy balance. When given unrestricted access to feed, broilers exhibit hyperphagia leading to an excessive accumulation of energy (fat) stores, making these birds prone to obesity and other health-related problems. Humoral and neural pathways have been identified and studied in mammals that link appetite and energy balance. A series of highly integrated regulatory mechanisms exists for both of these processes involving complex interactions between peripheral tissues and the central nervous system. Within the central nervous system, the brainstem and the hypothalamus play critical roles in the regulation of feed intake and energy balance. Genes encoding key regulatory factors such as hormones, neuropeptides, receptors, enzymes, transcription factors, and binding/transport proteins constitute the molecular basis for regulatory systems that derive from integrated sensing, signaling, and metabolic pathways. However, we do not yet have a complete understanding of the genetic basis for this regulation in poultry. This review examines what is currently known about the regulation of feed intake and energy balance in poultry. A better understanding of the genes associated with controlling feed intake and energy balance and how their expression is regulated by nutritional and hormonal stimuli will offer new insights into current poultry breeding and management practices.