The melanocortin circuit in obese and lean strains of chicks

Gideon Hen, Sara Yosefi, Victoria Simchaev, Dmitry Shinder, Victor J. Hruby, Miriam Friedman-Einat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Agonists of membranal melanocortin 3 and 4 receptors (MC3/4Rs) are known to take part in the complex control mechanism of energy balance. In this study, we compared the physiological response to an exogenous MC3/4R agonist and the hypothalamic expression of proopic melanocortin (POMC) gene, encoding few MC3/4R ligands, between broiler and layer chicken strains. These strains, representing the two most prominent commercial strains of chickens grown for meat (broilers) and egg production (layers), differ in their food intake, fat accumulation, and reproductive performance and, therefore, form a good model of obese and lean phenotypes, respectively. A single i.v. injection of the synthetic peptide melanotan-II (MT-II; 1 mg/kg body weight) into the wing vein of feed-restricted birds led to attenuation of food intake upon exposure to feeding ad libitum in both broiler and layer chickens. A study of the POMC mRNA encoding the two prominent natural MC3/4R agonists, α-MSH and ACTH, also revealed a general similarity between the strains. Under feeding conditions ad libitum, POMC mRNA levels were highly similar in chicks of both strains and this level was significantly reduced upon feed restriction. However, POMC mRNA down-regulation upon feed restriction was more pronounced in layers than in broilers. These results suggest: (i) a role for MC3/4R, agonists in the control of appetite; (ii) that the physiological differences between broilers and layers are not related to unresponsiveness of broiler chickens to the satiety signal of MC3/4R ligands. Therefore, these findings suggest that artificial activation of this circuit in broiler chicks could help to accommodate with their agricultural shortcomings of overeating, fattening, and impaired reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-535
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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