Background: Domestic broiler chickens rapidly accumulate adipose tissue due to intensive genetic selection for rapid growth and are naturally hyperglycemic and insulin resistant, making them an attractive addition to the suite of rodent models used for studies of obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans. Furthermore, chicken adipose tissue is considered as poorly sensitive to insulin and lipolysis is under glucagon control. Excessive fat accumulation is also an economic and environmental concern for the broiler industry due to the loss of feed efficiency and excessive nitrogen wasting, as well as a negative trait for consumers who are increasingly conscious of dietary fat intake. Understanding the control of avian adipose tissue metabolism would both enhance the utility of chicken as a model organism for human obesity and insulin resistance and highlight new approaches to reduce fat deposition in commercial chickens.
Results: We combined transcriptomics and metabolomics to characterize the response of chicken adipose tissue to two energy manipulations, fasting and insulin deprivation in the fed state. Sixteen to 17 day-old commercial broiler chickens (ISA915) were fed ad libitum, fasted for five hours, or fed but deprived of insulin by injections of anti-insulin serum. Pair-wise contrasts of expression data identified a total of 2016 genes that were differentially expressed after correction for multiple testing, with the vast majority of differences due to fasting (1780 genes). Gene Ontology and KEGG pathway analyses indicated that a short term fast impacted expression of genes in a broad selection of pathways related to metabolism, signaling and adipogenesis. The effects of insulin neutralization largely overlapped with the response to fasting, but with more modest effects on adipose tissue metabolism. Tissue metabolomics indicated unique effects of insulin on amino acid metabolism.
Conclusions: Collectively, these data provide a foundation for further study into the molecular basis for adipose expansion in commercial poultry and identify potential pathways through which fat accretion may be attenuated in the future through genetic selection or management practices. They also highlight chicken as a useful model organism in which to study the dynamic relationship between food intake, metabolism, and adipose tissue biology.