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Social stress in laying hens: differential effect of stress on plasma dopamine concentrations and adrenal function in genetically selected chickens

Cheng, H.W., Singleton, P., Muir, W.M.
Poultry science 2003 v.82 no.2 pp. 192
laying hens, animal stress, hypothalamic regulation, sympathetic nervous system, hormonal regulation, hormone secretion, dopamine, corticosterone, group housing, animal housing, cages, body weight, adrenal glands, weight, genotype-environment interaction, social behavior, temperament, animal genetics, animal physiology
Genetic selection for high or low group productivity and survivability (HGPS, LGPS) has created two phenotypically distinct chicken lines. Each line has unique characteristics in behavioral and physiological adaptability to multiple-bird cage system. The present study was designed to examine whether these differences reflect genetic variation in the control of plasma dopamine (DA) concentrations and adrenal function in response to social stress. Chickens from the HGPS and LGPS lines were randomly assigned to single- or 10-bird cages at 17 wk of age. The 10-bird cages were the same as those used in the development of the two lines. Differences in regulation of DA concentrations and adrenal function in response to different social environments were measured between the two lines when the study was conducted at 24 wk of age. In the 10-bird cages, the HGPS line had lower levels of DA (P < 0.05) and heavier adrenal glands (AG, P < 0.05) than those of the LGPS line, but concentrations of corticosterone (CORT) from the two lines were not significantly different. In the single-bird cages, DA levels in both lines were greater than in that of their siblings in the 10-bird cages, but a greater increase was found in the LGPS line (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, 405% vs. 293%). Likewise, both lines had lower concentrations of CORT (P < 0.05) in the single- vs. 10-bird cages, but the AG were less heavy in the LGPS line but not in HGPS line in the single-bird cages (P < 0.05). The results indicated that the two strains reacted differently in terms of their stress hormone levels in the two different environments. These differences could contribute to the behavioral and physiological differences existing between the two lines.