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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay


GABI : Génétique Animale et Biologie IntégrativeUnité Mixte de Recherche INRA - AgroParisTech

Assessment of trade-offs between feed efficiency, growth-related traits, and immune activity in experimental lines of layer chickens

@INRAE C. Maître - Graphe T. Zerjal Légende : Representation of resource allocation trade-offs that distribute limited resources, here represented with the orange sphere, among various competing functions, represented by the blue spheres.
All organisms are inherently constrained by the resources that are available to them, and must therefore allocate these limited resources among competing functions. This idea is central to the biological concept of trade-offs, which represent the costs incurred when a change in one trait results in an unfavorable change in another. Although the environment of domestic animals is more controlled than that of wild species, especially for food resources, the intensive selection for production and feed efficiency may have unintentionally triggered negative effects on other fundamental functions, such as the immune response, which may lead to detrimental effects on animal health and welfare.

In all organisms, life-history traits are constrained by trade-offs, which may represent physiological limitations or be related to energy resource management. To detect trade-offs within a population, one promising approach is the use of artificial selection, because intensive selection on one trait can induce unplanned changes in others. In chickens, the breeding industry has achieved remarkable genetic progress in production and feed efficiency over the last 60 years. However, this may have been accomplished at the expense of other important biological functions, such as immunity. In the present study, we used three experimental lines of layer chickens — two that have been divergently selected for feed efficiency and one that has been selected for increased antibody response to inactivated Newcastle disease virus (ND3) — to explore the impact of improved feed efficiency on animals’ immunocompetence and, vice versa, the impact of improved antibody response on animals’ growth and feed efficiency.

There were detectable differences between the low (R+) and high (R−) feed-efficiency lines with respect to vaccine-specific antibody responses and counts of monocytes, heterophils, and/or T cell population. The ND3 line presented reduced body weight and feed intake compared to the control line. ND3 chickens also demonstrated an improved antibody response against a set of commercial viral vaccines, but lower blood leucocyte counts.

This study demonstrates the value of using experimental chicken lines that are divergently selected for feed efficiency or for a high antibody production, to investigate the modulation of immune parameters in relation to growth and feed efficiency. Our results provide further evidence that long-term selection for the improvement of one trait may have consequences on other important biological functions. Hence, strategies to ensure optimal trade-offs among competing functions will ultimately be required in multi-trait selection programs in livestock.

  • Contact : Tatiana Zerjal, Team GiBBS

See also


Zerjal, T., Härtle, S., Gourichon, D. et al. Assessment of trade-offs between feed efficiency, growth-related traits, and immune activity in experimental lines of layer chickens. Genet Sel Evol 53, 44 (2021).