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Br Poult Sci. 2001 Sep;42(4):505-13.

Body and intestinal growth of broiler chicks on a commercial starter diet. 1. Intestinal weight and mucosal development.

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Department of Animal Science, The University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, Australia.


1. A study was conducted on the pattern of development of the intestinal mucosa of the Steggles x Ross (F1) strain of broiler chickens reared on a commercial starter diet. The mechanisms underlying the structural changes were also assessed. 2. In relation to body weight, small intestinal weight peaked at 7 d of age and declined subsequently. There was also a reduction in the relative weights of the gizzard and yolk sac with age. The length of the small intestine and its regions increased with age. 3. Crypt depth increased with age in the duodenum and jejunum while villus height increased significantly with age in all three regions of the small intestine. There were also significant changes in apparent villus surface area in the three regions, while interactions between age and intestinal region were significant in the case of crypt depth and villus height. 4. There were significant differences between the age groups in the mucosal protein content of jejunal and ileal homogenates, both tending to peak at 7 d of age. The DNA content of the intestinal mucosa declined with age in the three regions of the small intestine. While there was an increase in RNA content in the duodenum and ileum, there was a reduction in the jejunum. 5. Protein: DNA ratio increased between hatch and 21 d of age in all intestinal regions. Protein: RNA ratio decreased with age in the duodenum and ileum but increased in the jejunum. There were significant increases in RNA: DNA ratio in the duodenum and ileum but no changes were observed in the jejunum. The interactions between age and intestinal region were significant for all biochemical indices assessed. 6. At all ages, enterocyte proliferation at the jejunum was completed and quantifiable within 1 h of administration of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrDU). Subsequent assessment revealed an increase in crypt column count and number of BrDU-labelled cells. The rate of cell migration increased with age while there was a decline in the distance migrated in proportion to mucosal depth. The estimated life-span of enterocytes and time spent by enterocytes in the crypt varied with age. In d-old and 7-d-old chicks, migration was complete or nearly complete within 96 h of cell birth. 7. Although the intestinal mucosa of the strain was structurally developed at hatch, there was much change in structure with age, especially over the first 7 d post hatch. The rate of development was most rapid in the jejunum but the other regions are also important, on account of villus height or relative length of the region.

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