Transcriptional profile of breast muscle in heat stressed layers is similar to that of broiler chickens at control temperature

Zahoor, I., de Koning, D. & Hocking, P. M.
Genetics Selection Evolution
Journal publication date: 

BACKGROUND: In recent years, the commercial importance of changes in muscle function of broiler chickens and of the corresponding effects on meat quality has increased. Furthermore, broilers are more sensitive to heat stress during transport and at high ambient temperatures than smaller egg-laying chickens. We hypothesised that heat stress would amplify muscle damage and expression of genes that are involved in such changes and, thus, lead to the identification of pathways and networks associated with broiler muscle and meat quality traits. Broiler and layer chickens were exposed to control or high ambient temperatures to characterise differences in gene expression between the two genotypes and the two environments.

RESULTS: Whole-genome expression studies in breast muscles of broiler and layer chickens were conducted before and after heat stress; 2213 differentially-expressed genes were detected based on a significant (P < 0.05) genotype × treatment interaction. This gene set was analysed with the BioLayout Express(3D) and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software and relevant biological pathways and networks were identified. Genes involved in functions related to inflammatory reactions, cell death, oxidative stress and tissue damage were upregulated in control broilers compared with control and heat-stressed layers. Expression of these genes was further increased in heat-stressed broilers.

CONCLUSIONS: Differences in gene expression between broiler and layer chickens under control and heat stress conditions suggest that damage of breast muscles in broilers at normal ambient temperatures is similar to that in heat-stressed layers and is amplified when broilers are exposed to heat stress. The patterns of gene expression of the two genotypes under heat stress were almost the polar opposite of each other, which is consistent with the conclusion that broiler chickens were not able to cope with heat stress by dissipating their body heat. The differentially expressed gene networks and pathways were consistent with the pathological changes that are observed in the breast muscle of heat-stressed broilers.