Willems E, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Decuypere E, Janssens S, Buyse J, Buys N, Jensen P, Everaert N
Previously, long-term effects on body weight and reproductive performance have been demonstrated in the chicken model of prenatal protein undernutrition by albumen removal. Introduction of such persistent alterations in phenotype suggests stable changes in gene expression. Therefore, a genome-wide screening of the hepatic transcriptome by RNA-Seq was performed in adult hens. The albumen-deprived hens were created by partial removal of the albumen from eggs and replacement with saline early during embryonic development. Results were compared to sham-manipulated hens and non-manipulated hens. Grouping of the differentially expressed (DE) genes according to biological functions revealed the involvement of processes such as ‘embryonic and organismal development’ and ‘reproductive system development and function’. Molecular pathways that were altered were ‘amino acid metabolism’, ‘carbohydrate metabolism’ and ‘protein synthesis’. Three key central genes interacting with many DE genes were identified: UBC, NR3C1, and ELAVL1. The DNA methylation of 9 DE genes and 3 key central genes was examined by MeDIP-qPCR. The DNA methylation of a fragment (UBC_3) of the UBC gene was increased in the albumen-deprived hens compared to the non-manipulated hens. In conclusion, these results demonstrated that prenatal protein undernutrition by albumen removal leads to long-term alterations of the hepatic transcriptome in the chicken.