Early posthatch thermal stress affects breast muscle development and satellite cell growth and characteristics in broilers
Heat or cold stress, can disrupt well-being and physiological responses in birds. This study aimed to elucidate the effects of continuous heat exposure in the first 2 wk of age on muscle development in broilers, with an emphasis on the pectoralis muscle satellite cell population. Chicks were reared for 13 d under either commercial conditions or a temperature regime that was 5°C higher. Body and muscle weights, as well as absolute muscle growth were lower in heat-exposed chicks from d 6 onward. The number of satellite cells derived from the experimental chicks was higher in the heat-treated group on d 3 but lower on d 8 and 13 compared to controls. This was reflected in a lower number of myonuclei expressing proliferating nuclear cell antigen in cross sections of pectoralis major muscle sampled on d 8. However, a TUNEL assay revealed similar cell survival in both groups. Mean myofiber diameter and distribution were lower in muscle sections sampled on d 8 and 13 in heat-treated versus control group, suggesting that the lower muscle growth is due to changes in muscle hypertrophy. Oil-Red O staining showed a higher number of satellite cells with lipids in the heat-treated compared to the control group on these days. Moreover, lipid deposition was observed in pectoralis muscle cross sections derived from the heat-treated chicks on d 13, whereas the controls barely exhibited any lipid staining. The gene and protein expression levels of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein β in pectoralis muscle from the heat-treated group were significantly higher on d 13 than in controls, while myogenin levels were similar. The results suggest high sensitivity of muscle progenitor cells in the early posthatch period at a time when they are highly active, to chronic heat exposure, leading to impaired myogenicity of the satellite cells and increased fat deposition.