Mechanisms Regulating Feed Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Body Weight in Poultry

By M. P. Richards (Corresponding author) and M. Proszkowiec-Weglarz USDA, ARS, Growth Biology Laboratory. Published in Poultry Science, Volume 86, Issue 7, July 2007 edition.
calendar icon 9 July 2007
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To achieve energy balance and maintain a constant BW, changes in feed intake and energy expenditure must be coordinated and tightly regulated. This may not hold true for some poultry species intensively selected for such economically important traits as growth and meat production. For example, the modern commercial broiler breeder does not adequately control voluntary feed intake to meet its energy requirements and maintain energy balance.

As a consequence, feeding must be limited in these birds to avoid overconsumption and excessive fattening during production. It is important to determine a genetic basis to help explain this situation and to offer potential strategies for producing more efficient poultry. This review summarizes what is currently known about the control of feed intake and energy expenditure at the gene level in birds.

Highly integrated regulatory systems have been identified that link the control of feeding with the sensing of energy status. How such systems function in poultry is currently being explored. One example recently identified in chickens is the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase pathway that links energy sensing with modulation of metabolic activity to maintain energy homeostasis at the cellular level.

In the hypothalamus, this same pathway may also play an important role in regulating feed intake and energy expenditure commensurate with perceived whole body energy needs. Genes encoding key regulatory factors such as hormones, neuropeptides, receptors, enzymes, and transcription factors produce the molecular components that make up intricate and interconnected neural, endocrine, and metabolic pathway networks linking peripheral tissues with the central nervous system.

Moreover, coordinate expression of specific gene groups can establish functional pathways that respond to and are regulated by such factors as hormones, nutrients, and metabolites.

Thus, with a better understanding of the genetic and molecular basis for regulating feed intake and energy expenditure in birds important progress can be made in developing, evaluating, and managing more efficient commercial poultry lines.

June 2007
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