Follicular development and plasma yolk precursor dynamics through the laying cycle in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Physiol Biochem Zool. May-Jun 2001;74(3):356-65. doi: 10.1086/320427.


We investigated the quantitative matching of plasma yolk precursor supply (the plasma pool) to follicle demand during yolk formation in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Plasma concentrations of the two yolk precursors, vitellogenin (VTG) and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), were only elevated coincident with rapid yolk development (RYD) and matched variation in total yolky follicle mass. VTG and VLDL were low (<0.4 microg/mL and <4.2 mg/mL, respectively) in nonbreeders and prebreeders with no yolky follicles, and at clutch completion. They increased to 4.02 microg/mL and 19.4 mg/mL in birds with a full follicle hierarchy (F1-F4), and concentrations then remained high and actually increased up to the point where only a single, yolky (F1) follicle remained. However, there was some evidence for mismatching of supply and demand: (a) precursor concentrations increased throughout the laying cycle even though the number of developing follicles decreased. We suggest that this is because of a requirement to maintain a large precursor pool to maintain high uptake rates; and (b) in birds with a full follicle hierarchy, precursor concentrations were negatively correlated with total follicle mass. This suggests that high uptake rates in large follicles can actually deplete circulating precursor concentrations. Plasma concentrations of both yolk precursors increased rapidly in the early morning with (predicted) time after ovulation, consistent with a lack of fine control of precursor concentrations. However, mean plasma VTG concentrations did not differ between morning or evening samples. In contrast, plasma VLDL concentrations were lower in the morning (16.8 mg/mL) than in the evening (22.9 mg/mL). Although there is marked individual variation in plasma VTG and VLDL (four- to eightfold), both precursors were repeatable in the short term (24 h), and plasma VTG was repeatable over a 14-d interval between successive breeding attempts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Egg Yolk
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL / blood
  • Ovarian Follicle / physiology*
  • Oviposition / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Vitellogenins / blood


  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Vitellogenins