Organ Growth in Chicken Embryos During Hypoxia: Implications on Organ "Sparing" and "Catch-Up Growth"

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2007 Nov 15;159(2):155-62. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2007.06.003. Epub 2007 Jun 16.


The primary aim of this study was to establish whether or not embryonic hypoxia selectively affects the growth of specific organs. Chicken embryos were incubated either in normoxia (Nx) or in hypoxia (15% O2 from embryonic day E5, Hx). The length of the beak and third toe (as indexes of skeletal growth) and the weights of internal organs (eyes, brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines) were collected at E14, E17, E19, and E20. Hypoxia reduced embryonic body weight (BW). At any given age, the specific weight (organ weight/BW) of some organs in Hx was higher, and that of others was lower, than in Nx. However, almost all differences disappeared when organ weights were compared as function of BW, rather than at fixed chronological ages. The important exception was the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM), the mass of which in Hx developed out of proportion. In a third group of embryos, hypoxic until E14 and normoxic thereafter, there was no post-hypoxic catch-up growth, differently from what known to occur postnatally. A possible interpretation is that catch-up growth does not depend on the age of the embryo but on its BW. In conclusion, at least in the chicken embryo and for the level of hypoxia tested, hypoxia has no selective effects on the growth of specific organs, except for the CAM. Qualitative differences in the weight response to hypoxia among organs observed at any given age can be explained largely by the effects of the blunted growth on the growth trajectory of the individual organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Chick Embryo
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Hypoxia / pathology*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / embryology*
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Oxygen / pharmacology


  • Oxygen