Effect of probiotics or high incubation temperature on gene expression and cell organization of the small intestine and yolk sac of chicks

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Virginia Tech

The small intestine and yolk sac (YS) are important organs for nutrient absorption and innate immunity in chickens during the post-hatch or prehatch periods. These organs share a similar structure of epithelial cell-lined villi with tight junctions between adjacent cells. Probiotics have been reported to improve chicken growth performance and gut health including promotion of intestinal morphology. However, there are few studies that show the effect of probiotics on ontogeny of intestinal epithelial cells and antimicrobial peptides, or intestinal integrity in young healthy chicks. Heat stress during incubation was shown to increase mortality and decrease hatchability of chicks, while no studies have investigated the effect of heat stress on the integrity of the YS, which might be related to hatching performance. There were four studies conducted in this research: 1) a comparison of the effect of two probiotics on the ontogeny of small intestinal epithelial cells in young chicks; 2) the effect of two probiotics on mRNA abundance of tight junction proteins in the small intestine of young chicks; 3) the effect of high incubation temperature on mRNA abundance of tight junction proteins in the YS of broiler embryos; and 4) comparison of avian defense peptide mRNA abundance in the YS of broilers and layers. In study 1, Probiotics transiently decreased body weight gain (BWG) from day 2 to day 4, but did not affect body weight (BW) from day 2 to day 8, and small intestinal weight and intestinal morphology from day 2 to day 6. Probiotics did not affect marker gene expression of intestinal stem cells (Olfm4) and goblet cells (Muc2) in all small intestinal segments, but did increase expression of a marker gene of proliferating cells (Ki67), and decreased an antimicrobial peptide (liver-enriched antimicrobial peptide 2, LEAP2) in the jejunum at day 4. Probiotic 1 decreased PepT1, a marker of enterocytes in the duodenum at day 4. These results suggest that probiotics did not improve growth performance and intestinal morphology in young healthy chicks, but temporarily promoted intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and decreased LEAP2 antimicrobial peptide expression in the jejunum. In situ hybridization (ISH) showed that Ki67+ proliferating cells were mainly located in the crypt region and the blood vessels of villi. In study 2, Probiotic supplementation to newly hatched chicks for less than one week did not affect mRNA abundance of the tight junction proteins in the small intestine. Occludin (OCLN) mRNA, which was detected by ISH to be expressed in intestinal epithelial cells in both the villus and crypt regions, was greater in the duodenum of female chicks than males. In study 3, high incubation temperature starting from embryonic day 12 (E12) affected mRNA abundance of the tight junction proteins in the YS, including increased zonula occluden 1 (ZO1) at E13, increased junctional adhesion molecule A (JAMA) and heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) at E17, but decreased tight junction protein JAMA at E19 and OCLN at day of hatch (DOH). These results showed that the YS tight junction proteins were increased by short term heat exposure but decreased by long term heat exposure. In study 4, the expression of avian β defensin 10 (AvBD10), CATHs and toll-like receptors in the YS was examined. Toll-like receptors were highly expressed in the YS at early incubation stages (E7), while CATHs showed a peak expression from E9 to E13, which was similar to the expression pattern of AvBD10. CATHs and AvBD10 mRNA temporal expression patterns were similar in broilers and layers, while their expression levels were different. Layers, especially brown layers, had greater mRNA abundance for antimicrobial peptides such as AvBD10, CATH1, and CATH2 in the YS. These results demonstrate that the antimicrobial peptide temporal expression patterns in the YS are not affected by breed, but their expression levels are affected by breed. In summary, the small intestine and the YS are essential for nutrient uptake, innate immunity, and maintenance of integrity. The ontogeny of intestinal epithelial cells, such as proliferating cells can be modulated by probiotic supplementation. Similar to the small intestine, the YS can also express tight junction proteins, which can be affected by high incubation temperature. Antimicrobial peptide expression in the intestine of healthy young chicks is also transiently decreased by probiotic supplements. Avian defensin and cathelicidin expression patterns in the YS were not affected by breed.

probiotic, high incubation temperature, epithelial cells, tight junction, small intestine, yolk sac, chicken