General and Comparative Endocrinology vol:112 issue:2 pages:200-9
The present study describes the effect of long-term food restriction on hypothalamopituitary function in the broiler breeder hen during the period prior to sexual maturity. From 1 week of age onward, chickens were divided into 3 groups: one group received food ad libitum (Ad lib); a second group was fed a restricted quantity of food (Res); and a third group was restricted to obtain an intermediate body weight (Int) in between groups one and two. The effects of these feeding regimes on hypothalamopituitary function were assessed by measuring the amounts of cLHRH-I stored in the median eminence (ME) and the pituitary content and plasma levels of gonadotrophins. The Res group had significantly lower levels of cLHRH-I in the ME compared to the Ad lib animals. In all groups, there was a major increase in cLHRH-I in the median eminence about 3 weeks before onset of lay. The age of first oviposition was delayed by 2 and 6 weeks in the Int and Res groups, respectively, compared to the Ad lib animals, indicating that body weight gain patterns are not directly related to the appearance of the first egg. The attainment of sexual maturity may be associated with a threshold value of cLHRH-I stored in the ME in the Ad lib and Int birds. The pituitary LH and FSH contents (after week 16) were positively related to the amount of cLHRH-I in the ME. Plasma FSH concentrations in Ad lib and Int chickens peaked about 3 weeks before the first oviposition and this prepubertal peak was associated with increased pituitary FSH and ME cLHRH-I. There were however no relationships between plasma LH concentrations and pituitary LH content and between plasma LH and cLHRH-I amounts in the ME. The present study demonstrates that the delayed sexual maturation, caused by a chronic food restriction, may be associated with (1) delayed ovarian and oviductal growth, (2) decreased cLHRH-I storage in the ME, and (3) lower levels of LH and FSH in the pituitary. These hormones were however not directly related to levels of food restriction.