Expression of angiogenic factors and plexiform lesions in the lungs of broiler and layer chickens: A comparison1

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Plexiform lesions are characteristic histological changes of pulmonary arteries in human patients with severe pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and are regarded as angiogenic lesions. Meat-type broiler chickens are susceptible to PAH and can develop plexiform lesions spontaneously. Whether the lesion development in broilers is associated with PAH predisposition and lung angiogenic environment remains unclear. Moreover, little is known about the cellular origin of these structures. In this work, plexiform lesions were detected in both layer chickens (a strain known to be resistant to PAH) and broiler chickens aged between 1 and 6 wk with normal pulmonary arterial pressures. Within each of the sampled ages, the lesion density did not differ between strains, with an exception of wk 4 when broiler was higher than layer. In contrast to the trend of age-related decline in layers, lesion densities in broilers demonstrated bi-phasic alterations characterized by a gradual decrease during wk 1 to 3 followed by a sudden increase at wk 4. The mRNA of 6 angiogenic factors in the lung tissue, namely, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)-2, angiopoietin (Ang)-1, angiopoietin receptor Tie-2, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and interleukin (IL)-8, were differentially expressed between strains. However, none of them was found to be significantly correlated with the lesion density by strain and age-adjusted partial correlation analysis. An in vivo experiment revealed impaired differentiation of endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) into endothelial cells during the producing of plexiform lesions, as evidenced by increased expression of endothelial CD133, a maker of EPC, but reduced expression of CD31, a marker of mature endothelial cells, in the parent vessels of plexiform lesions compared to normal vessels. Collectively, it appears unlikely that the predisposition to PAH or intrapulmonary angiogenic environment contributes to the lesion development in broilers when compared with layers. It is suggested that the lesion development is associated with increased pulmonary arterial pressure, and that local EPC dysfunction may play a role in the process.

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