Effect of age on the occurrence of muscle fiber degeneration associated with myopathies in broiler chickens submitted to feed restriction

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To evaluate muscle fiber degeneration (MFD) associated with white striping and wooden breast, pectoralis major of 192 broilers differing for genotype (standard vs. high breast yield), gender, and feeding regime (ad libitum vs. restricted rate 80% from 13 to 21 d of age) were sampled at 14, 21, 28, 35, and 46 d of age for histological analyses by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining to evaluate tissue morphology, Masson's trichrome to identify collagen presence, and Oil red and Nile blue for lipid presence. Microvessels (diameter ≤15 μm), nuclei positive to anti-cleaved lamin A and monoclonal proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) antisera were counted to assess apoptotic and regenerative processes, respectively. Significant differences were found according to feeding system, age, and their interactions. The frequency of chickens with MFD was higher with ad libitum than restricted feeding (75.0% vs. 62.5%; P = 0.01) and increased with age (18.8%, 28.1%, 75.1%, 96.9%, and 96.9% at 14, 21, 28, 35, and 46 d). However, at 14 d a similar frequency (18.8%) was found in all broilers; at 21 d, MFD occurred more in broilers fed ad libitum than in those under restriction (50.0% vs. 6.3%; P < 0.01); at 28 d differences were reduced (87.5% vs. 62.5%; P = 0.10) to disappear by 35 (100% and 93.8%) and 46 d (96.9% and 96.9%). The number of microvessels decreased with age (20.7 to 9.46; P < 0.001) and the number of nuclei positive to the anti-cleaved lamin A antibody increased. At histology, MFD at 46 d corresponded to loss of typical cross striations, massive necrotic process, degenerating fibers surrounded by inflammatory cells, scattered fibers in an abundant collagen-rich connective tissue, numerous adipose cells; necrotic fibers showed a high percentage of apoptotic nuclei, and regenerating fibers appeared positive to anti-PCNA antibody. In conclusion, MFD soon occurred after 2 wk of growth and increased dramatically within 28 d. Early feed restriction reduced MFD as long as animals were restricted, but no residual effect was recorded after re-alimentation.

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