Hypothalamic agouti-related protein expression is affected by both acute and chronic experience of food restriction and re-feeding in chickens

J Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Oct;25(10):920-8. doi: 10.1111/jne.12088.


The central melanocortin system is conserved across vertebrates. However, in birds, little is known about how energy balance influences orexigenic agouti-related protein (AGRP) and anorexigenic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) expression, despite the fact that commercial food restriction is critical to the efficient production of poultry meat. To enable contrasts to be made, in broiler-breeder chickens, between levels of food restriction, between birds with the same body weight but different feeding experience, and between birds moved from restricted feeding to ad lib. feeding for different periods, five groups of hens were established between 6 and 12 weeks of age with different combinations of food restriction and release from restriction. AGRP and neuropeptide Y expression in the basal hypothalamus was significantly increased by chronic restriction but only AGRP mRNA levels reflected recent feeding experience: hens at the same body weight that had recently been on ad lib. feeding showed lower expression than restricted birds. AGRP expression also distinguished between hens released from restriction to ad lib. feeding for different periods. By contrast, POMC and cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript mRNA levels were not different. These results showed that AGRP mRNA not only reflected differences between a bird's weight and its potential weight or set point, but also discriminated between differing feeding histories of birds at the same body weight. Therefore, AGRP expression potentially provides an integrated measure of food intake experience and an objective tool to assess a bird's perception of satiety in feeding regimes for improved poultry welfare.

Keywords: AGRP; broiler-breeder chicken; chronic food restriction; re-feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • DNA Primers
  • Eating*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • DNA Primers