Gluconeogenesis, Non-Essential Amino Acid Synthesis and Substrate Partitioning in Chicken Embryos During Later Development

Poult Sci. 2017 Feb 1;96(2):414-424. doi: 10.3382/ps/pew249. Epub 2016 Aug 2.


We aimed to quantify the rate of gluconeogenesis (GNG), non-essential amino-acid (NEAA) synthesis, and substrate partitioning to the Krebs cycle in embryonic (e) day e14 and e19 chicken embryos. An in ovo continuous tracer infusion approach was employed to test the hypotheses that GNG and NEAA synthesis in developing chicken embryo increases from e14 to e19. [13C6]Glucose or [13C3]glycerol was continuously infused (8 h) into the chorio-allantoic compartment of eggs on e14 and e19. Glucose entry rate, Cori cycling, and GNG were higher (P < 0.05) in e19 compared to e14 embryos, presumably to support higher glycogen deposition in liver and muscle. Whereas de novo synthesis of alanine, aspartate, and glutamate via glycolysis and the Krebs cycle was higher (P < 0.01) in e14 embryos, synthesis of these NEAA from glycerol was higher (P < 0.05) in e19 compared to e14 embryos. These patterns of glucose and glycerol utilization suggest a metabolic shift to conserve glucose for glycogen synthesis and an increased utilization of yolk glycerol (from triacylglyceride) after e14. Although the contribution of glycerol to GNG in e19 embryos was higher (P < 0.05) than that in e14 embryos, the contribution of glycerol to GNG (1.3 to 6.0%) was minor. Based on [13C6]glucose tracer kinetics, the activities of both pyruvate carboxylase (PC) and pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) in the liver were higher (P < 0.05) in e19 embryos; whereas the higher (P < 0.01) relative activity of liver PC compared to PDH in e14 embryos suggests a greater anaplerotic flux into the Krebs cycle. In summary, the in ovo continuous tracer infusion approach allowed for a measurement of chicken embryo whole body and liver metabolism over a shorter window of development. This study provided quantitative estimates of the developmental shifts in substrate utilization, GNG, and NEAA synthesis by chicken embryos, as well as qualitative estimates of the activities of enzymes central to the Krebs cycle, glucose, and fatty acid metabolism.

Keywords: chicken embryo; gluconeogenesis; in ovo; stable isotope; substrate utilization.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens / metabolism*
  • Citric Acid Cycle*
  • Gluconeogenesis*


  • Amino Acids