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Research article2009Peer reviewed

Extremely Different Behaviours in High and Low Body Weight Lines of Chicken are Associated with Differential Expression of Genes Involved in Neuronal Plasticity

Ka, S.; Lindberg, J.; Stromstedt, L.; Fitzsimmons, C.; Lindqvist, N.; Lundeberg, J.; Siegel, P. B.; Andersson, L.; Hallbook, F.


Long-term selection (> 45 generations) for low or high body weight from the same founder population has generated two extremely divergent lines of chickens, the low (LWS) and high weight (HWS) lines, which at the age of selection (56 days) differs by more than nine-fold in body weight. The HWS line chickens are compulsive feeders, whereas, in the LWS line, some individuals are anorexic and others have very low appetites. The involvement of the central nervous system in these behavioural differences has been experimentally supported. We compared a brain region at 0 and 56 days of age containing the major metabolic regulatory regions, including the hypothalamus and brainstem, using a global cDNA array expression analysis. The results obtained show that the long-term selection has produced minor but multiple expression differences. Genes that regulate neuronal plasticity, such as actin filament polymerisation and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, were identified as being differentially expressed. Genes involved in lipid metabolism were over-represented among differentially expressed genes. The expression data confirm that neural systems regulating feeding behaviours in these lines are different. The results suggest that the lines are set in separate developmental trajectories equipped with slightly different nervous systems. We suggest that the lines adapt behaviourally different to changing situations post hatch, such as the transition from dependence on yolk to feeding, in order to obtain energy. The present study has identified and exemplifies the kind of changes that may underlie the extreme differences in such behaviours.


BDNF; body weight; cDNA microarray; chicken; feeding behaviour; hypothalamus; POMC; selection lines

Published in

Journal of Endocrinology
2009, Volume: 21, number: 3, pages: 208-216

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    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Veterinary Science
      Animal and Dairy Science

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