Organic feed influences gene expression in chickens

Jan 07, 2010 by Albert Sikkema

(PhysOrg.com) -- Organically fed chickens develop a different process of gene expression in their small intestines than that of chickens which get conventional feed. The organic chickens have higher expressed genes involved in the creation of cholesterol, but do not have raised cholesterol levels in their blood. This surprising conclusion was drawn by Wageningen animal researchers (The Netherlands) last month in the British Journal of Nutrition.

We had not expected much difference in gene expression between the two groups of because the same ingredients were found in both types of feed, and these differed only in the way they are cultivated', says researcher Astrid de Greeff of Livestock Research in Lelystad. 'But it appears that another cultivation method can result in significant differences at the expression level. Much to our surprise, 49 seemed to be regulated differently.' The research was commissioned by the Louis Bolk Institute in Driebergen as part of a bigger research project into possible health effects of feed from different production methods.

De Greeff and her colleagues compared the gene expression of two generations of chickens which received organically cultivated feed with the of chickens which received the usual feed. They isolated RNA from the small intestines of the chickens. The amount of RNA is a measurement of the expression of a particular gene. The RNA of the organically fed chickens was labelled with a green colour; the of the conventional chickens had a red label. Both RNA's were brought together in a micro-array which comprises almost all chicken genes, and comparison was carried out. De Greeff compared pairs of five organically fed chickens and five conventionally fed chickens. She concluded afterwards that there were significant differences in expression.

A differential expression of 49 genes among a total of twenty thousand chicken genes may seem subtle, says De Greeff. But if you consider the fact that the cultivation method is the only difference in the feed, this is in fact a big difference. Moreover, seven of the 49 genes are involved in cholesterol biosynthesis, when only thirty genes are involved in total in the process.

What happens biologically when these genes become expressed higher is still unknown. 'Cholesterol is a building material for many substances, such as hormones. We don't know yet what the cholesterol does in the chickens.'

Explore further: Scientists pinpoint gene for better rice

Related Stories

Darwin was wrong about the wild origin of the chicken

Feb 29, 2008

Charles Darwin maintained that the domesticated chicken derives from the red jungle fowl, but new research from Uppsala University now shows that the wild origins of the chicken are more complicated than that.

Scientists study excess fat in chickens

Jan 30, 2008

Obesity is a problem for many American consumers—and now even chickens are getting fat. As a result,scientists have been looking for ways to help growers efficiently produce chickens of optimal weight while minimizing excess ...

Illinois counting its chickens

Jul 14, 2006

A research scientist in Illinois wants to bring the state's prairie chicken population back to the level it was when Abraham Lincoln was alive.

New method could lead to avian flu-resistant birds

Nov 01, 2005

Creating a strain of avian flu-resistant chickens and exploring how canaries learn to sing are two of many potential uses for a Picower Institute of Learning and Memory researcher's simple new way to create transgenic birds. ...

Recommended for you

Can gene editing provide a solution to global hunger?

7 hours ago

According to the World Food Program, some 795 million people – one in nine people on earth – don't have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That will only get worse with the next global food cris ...

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.