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Effect of delayed feeding post-hatch on expression of tight junction– and gut barrier–related genes in the small intestine of broiler chickens during neonatal development

Monika Proszkowiec-Weglarz, Lori L. Schreier, Stanislaw Kahl, Katarzyna B. Miska, Beverly Russell, Theodore H. Elsasser
Poultry science 2020 v.99 no.10 pp. 4714-4729
absorption, absorption barrier, digesta, digestion, early development, epithelium, gene expression regulation, hatcheries, histology, ileum, jejunum, liquid nitrogen, mortality, mucins, mucus, neonatal development, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, transportation
The gut not only plays a key role in digestion and absorption of nutrients but also forms a physical barrier and first line of defense between the host and the luminal environment. A functional gut barrier (mucus and epithelial cells with tight junctions [TJ]) is essential for optimal health and efficient production in poultry. In current broiler system, chicks are deprived of food and water up to 72 h due to uneven hatching, hatchery procedures, and transportation. Post-hatch feed delay results in lower BW, higher FCR and mortality, and delayed post-hatch gut development. Little is known about the effects of early neonatal development and delayed feeding immediately post-hatch on gut barrier function in chickens. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to characterize the expression pattern of gut barrier–related and TJ-related genes in the small intestine of broiler chickens during early development and delay in access to feed. Newly hatched chicks received feed and water immediately after hatch or were subjected to 48 h delayed access to feed to mimic commercial hatchery setting and operations. Birds were sampled (n = 6) at −48, 0, 4, 24, 48, 72, 96, 144, 192, 240, 288, and 336 h post-hatch. Jejunum and ileum were collected, cleaned of digesta, and snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen or fixed in paraformaldehyde. The relative mRNA levels of gut barrier- and TJ-related protein genes were measured by quantitative PCR and analyzed by 2-way ANOVA. In both tissues, changes (P < 0.05) in gene expression pattern of gut barrier–related and TJ-related genes were detected due to delayed access to feed post-hatch and/or development. In general, expression of TJ-related genes was downregulated while mRNA levels of gut barrier-related genes were upregulated during development. Histological differences and changes in mucin staining due to age and treatment were observed. These results suggest that delayed access to feed post-hatch may affect TJ structure and/or function and therefore gut barrier function and overall health of the chicken small intestine.