BACKGROUND In broilers, high ambient temperature can result in reduced feed consumption, digestive inefficiency, impaired metabolism, and even death. The broiler sector of the U.S. poultry industry incurs approximately $52 million in heat-related losses annually. The objective of this study is to characterize the effects of cyclic high ambient temperature on the transcriptome of a metabolically active organ, the liver. This study provides novel insight into the effects of high ambient temperature on metabolism in broilers, because it is the first reported RNA-seq study to characterize the effect of heat on the transcriptome of a metabolic-related tissue. This information provides a platform for future investigations to further elucidate physiologic responses to high ambient temperature and seek methods to ameliorate the negative impacts of heat. RESULTS Transcriptome sequencing of the livers of 8 broiler males using Illumina HiSeq 2000 technology resulted in 138 million, 100-base pair single end reads, yielding a total of 13.8 gigabases of sequence. Forty genes were differentially expressed at a significance level of P-value < 0.05 and a fold-change ≥ 2 in response to a week of cyclic high ambient temperature with 27 down-regulated and 13 up-regulated genes. Two gene networks were created from the function-based Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) of the differentially expressed genes: "Cell Signaling" and "Endocrine System Development and Function". The gene expression differences in the liver transcriptome of the heat-exposed broilers reflected physiological responses to decrease internal temperature, reduce hyperthermia-induced apoptosis, and promote tissue repair. Additionally, the differential gene expression revealed a physiological response to regulate the perturbed cellular calcium levels that can result from high ambient temperature exposure. CONCLUSIONS Exposure to cyclic high ambient temperature results in changes at the metabolic, physiologic, and cellular level that can be characterized through RNA-seq analysis of the liver transcriptome of broilers. The findings highlight specific physiologic mechanisms by which broilers reduce the effects of exposure to high ambient temperature. This information provides a foundation for future investigations into the gene networks involved in the broiler stress response and for development of strategies to ameliorate the negative impacts of heat on animal production and welfare.
Coble, D. J., Fleming, D., Persia, M. E., Ashwell, C. M., Rothschild, M. F., Schmidt, C. J., & Lamont, S. J. (2014). RNA-seq analysis of broiler liver transcriptome reveals novel responses to high ambient temperature. BMC Genomics, 15, 1084. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2164-15-1084