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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fayetteville, Arkansas » Poultry Production and Product Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #376798

Research Project: Antibiotic Alternatives for Controlling Foodborne Pathogens and Disease in Poultry

Location: Poultry Production and Product Safety Research

Title: Linkage between the intestinal microbiota and residual feed intake in broiler chickens

item LIU, JING - Oklahoma State University
item STEWART, SYDNEY - Oklahoma State University
item Robinson, Kelsy
item YANG, QING - Oklahoma State University
item LYU, WENTAO - Oklahoma State University
item WHITMORE, MELANIE - Oklahoma State University
item ZHANG, GUOLONG - Oklahoma State University

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2020
Publication Date: 2/11/2021
Publication URL:
Citation: Liu, J., Stewart, S., Robinson, K., Yang, Q., Lyu, W., Whitmore, M.A., Zhang, G. 2021. Linkage between the intestinal microbiota and residual feed intake in broiler chickens. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology.

Interpretive Summary: Maximizing the feed efficiency of chickens to produce more poultry meat with less input is vital to the future sustainability of the poultry industry. The intestinal microbiota has been shown to play a role in bird health and growth and previous studies have indicated a relationship between microbiota composition and growth in multiple species. The goal of this study was to identify intestinal microbes involved in poultry feed efficiency to detect potential new pre- and probiotics. Results found no significant differences in overall microbiota composition between high and low efficiency birds. However, correlation analyses found multiple amplicon sequence variants significantly associated with feed efficiency in three intestinal locations. Identification of these efficiency-associated bacteria indicates a possibility to manipulate the intestinal bacteria to improve production efficiency. It is important to note, though, that several of these sequences belonged to closely related bacteria highlighting the complexity of the intestinal microbiota. An ability to differentiate bactera to the species, subspecies, or strain levels is necessary before effective microbiota manipulation can be achieved.

Technical Abstract: Background: Intestinal microbiota plays a key role in nutrient digestion and utilization with a profound impact on feed efficiency of livestock animals. However, the intestinal microbes that are critically involved in feed efficiency remain elusive. Methods: To identify intestinal bacteria associated with residual feed intake (RFI) in chickens, male Cobb broiler chicks were individually housed from day 14 to day 35. Individual RFI values were calculated for 56 chickens. Luminal contents were collected from the ileum, cecum, and cloaca of each animal on day 35. Bacterial DNA was isolated and subjected to 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Intestinal microbiota was classified to the feature level using Deblur and QIIME 2. High and low RFI groups were formed by selecting 15 and 17 chickens with the most extreme RFI values for subsequent LEfSe comparison of the difference in the microbiota. Spearman correlation analysis was further performed to identify correlations between the intestinal microbiota composition and RFI of all 56 chickens. Results: No significant difference in evenness, richness, and overall diversity of the microbiota in the ileum, cecum, or cloaca was observed between high and low RFI groups of chickens. However, LEfSe analysis revealed a number of bacterial features being differentially enriched in either high or low RFI chickens. Spearman correlation analysis further indicated many differentially enriched bacterial features were significantly correlated with RFI (P < 0.05). Importantly, not all short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producers showed a positive association with RFI. While two novel members of Oscillibacter and Butyricicoccus were more abundant in low-RFI, high-efficiency chickens, several other SCFA producers such as Subdoligranulum variabile and two related Peptostreptococcaceae members were negatively associated with feed efficiency. Moreover, a few closely-related Lachnospiraceae family members showed a positive correlation with feed efficiency, while others displayed an opposite relationship. Conclusions: Our results highlight the complexity of the intestinal microbiota and a need to differentiate bacteria to the species, subspecies, and even strain levels in order to reveal their true association with feed efficiency. Identification of RFI-associated bacteria provides possibilities to manipulate the intestinal microbiota for improving production efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of poultry production.