Feed Intake Alters Immune Cell Functions and Ovarian Infiltration in Broiler Hens: Implications for Reproductive Performance1

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Abstract

Leukocytes are known to participate in ovarian activities in several species, but there is a surprising lack of information for the common chicken. Broiler hens consuming feed ad libitum (AL) exhibit a number of ovarian irregularities, but leukocyte functions are unstudied. In contrast to feed-restricted (R) hens, AL feeding for 7 wk significantly reduced egg production and clutch length while increasing pause length and atretic follicle numbers (P < 0.05). Granulosa cells from F1 follicles of AL hens contained less progesterone, and follicle walls were thicker with loose fibrous morphology and had less collagenase-3-like gelatinolytic activity but more IL-1beta (P < 0.05) production, suggestive of slower maturation in ovulatory process and inflamed necrosis. Interestingly, while highly infiltrated with immune cells, particularly heterophils, IL-1beta, MMP-22-like, and gelatinase A activities were reduced in AL hen peripheral heterophils and monocytes (P < 0.05); however, AL monocytes showed an increase in phagocytosis rate (P < 0.05). Generation of reactive oxygen intermediates was also suppressed in AL heterophils but increased in AL monocytes (P < 0.05). In contrast to leukocyte-free control, both AL and R heterophils and monocytes suppressed progesterone production and increased cell death in a dose-dependent manner when coincubated with granulosa cells at different ratios (P < 0.05). AL monocytes suppressed progesterone production more, but AL heterophils were less proapoptotic when compared to their R counterparts (P < 0.05). Alterations of cellular ceramide content (P < 0.05) corresponded to the discrepancy between heterophil and monocyte functionality. In conclusion, leukocyte dysfunction contributes to impaired ovarian activities of overfed broiler hens.

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