Effects of beta-carotene on adult immune condition and antibacterial activity in the eggs of the Grey Partridge, Perdix perdix

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 Aug;147(4):1038-46. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2007.03.014. Epub 2007 Mar 19.


Carotenoids are important dietary constituents in birds. Their functions are numerous and complex, and breeding females are potentially faced with an optimal allocation of these resources between themselves and offspring. We conducted a dietary experiment (low and high supply of beta-carotene) to examine the effect of beta-carotene on health and immune response of 64 reproducing pairs of Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix L.) and on the quality of their eggs, as revealed by the measurement of biochemical components in yolk and albumen, the egg hatching rate and chick survival. We found a beneficial effect of beta-carotene on the erythrosedimentation rate and immune response of females (PHA reaction), while the diet did not significantly affect these variables in males. In both sexes, the plasma level of carotenoids was not related to the quantity of beta-carotene supplied. A higher quantity of beta-carotene in the diet did not induce a variation of egg nutrients (proteins and lipids), nor an increase of yolk beta-carotene concentration. We detected a higher concentration of lysozyme, an enzyme with antibacterial activity, in the albumen of eggs laid by females with a high supply of beta-carotene. These eggs showed higher hatching rates. The present study indicates that although carotenoid supplementation does not influence blood and yolk carotenoid levels, it results in better immune conditions of females, eventually translated into increased antibacterial activity of the eggs. The broad range of beneficial effects of carotenoids is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Egg Yolk / chemistry
  • Female
  • Galliformes / immunology*
  • Galliformes / microbiology*
  • Immunity / drug effects*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Male
  • Muramidase / metabolism
  • Organ Size
  • Ovum / drug effects*
  • Ovum / microbiology*
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Lipids
  • beta Carotene
  • Muramidase