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Poult Sci. 2010 Sep;89(9):1955-61. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-813.

Digestive tract measurements and histological adaptation in broiler lines divergently selected for digestive efficiency.

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INRA, UR83 Recherches Avicoles, F-37380, Nouzilly, France.


Two lines of broilers divergently selected for a high (D+) or a low (D-) AME(n) on a wheat-based diet were studied for morphological and histological characteristics of the digestive tract. A total of 630 birds of both lines were slaughtered after a 23-d feeding period. Digestive tract morphology and intestinal histology were investigated on a total of 24 birds to describe the consequences of divergent selection. Birds of the D+ line had 34% heavier gizzards (P < 0.001) and 22% heavier proventriculi than their D- counterparts. In contrast, intestines were 15 to 40% heavier in D- birds, mainly in the jejunum (P < 0.001) and ileum (P < 0.001). Intestinal segments were also longer (between 3 and 6%) in the D- birds. Intestinal villi were larger and longer in D- birds (P < 0.001), mainly in the jejunum (14 to 16%), and crypts were 10 to 15% deeper for the 3 intestinal segments in D- birds (P < 0.001). Muscle layers of the intestine were 17 to 24% thicker (P < 0.001) and goblet cells were 27 to 34% more numerous in the jejunum and ileum of D- birds (P = 0.027). This new characterization of the 2 lines shows that divergent selection based on AME(n) modified the morphology of the proventriculus and gizzard, suggesting greater activity of this compartment in D+ than in D- birds. Intestinal adaptation revealed by visceral organ weight and length and histological modifications in D- birds can be viewed as an attempt to compensate for the low functionality of the gastric area.

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