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Poult Sci. 2016 Dec 1;95(12):2956-2970. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

Characterization of egg white antibacterial properties during the first half of incubation: A comparative study between embryonated and unfertilized eggs.

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URA, INRA, 37380, Nouzilly, France
URA, INRA, 37380, Nouzilly, France.
ISP, INRA, University of Tours, 37380, Nouzilly, France.
PRC, CNRS, IFCE, INRA, University of Tours, 37380, Nouzilly, France.


Egg white is an important contributor to the protection of eggs against bacterial contaminations during the first half of incubation (day zero to 12), prior to the egg white transfer into the amniotic fluid to be orally absorbed by the embryo. This protective system relies on an arsenal of antimicrobial proteins and on intrinsic physicochemical properties that are generally unfavorable for bacterial multiplication and dissemination. Some changes in these parameters can be observed in egg white during egg storage and incubation. The aim of this work was to characterize changes in the antibacterial potential of egg white in embryonated eggs (FE) during the first half of incubation using unfertilized eggs (UF) as controls. Egg white samples were collected at day zero, 4, 8, and 12 and analyzed for pH, protein concentration, and protein profile. Antibacterial properties of egg white proteins were evaluated against Listeria monocytogenes, Streptococcus uberis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella Enteritidis. During incubation, differential variations of egg white pH and protein concentrations were observed between UF and FE. At equal protein concentrations, similar activities against L. monocytogenes and S. uberis were observed for FE and UF egg white proteins. A progressive decline in these activities, however, was observed over incubation time, regardless of the egg group (UF or FE). SDS-PAGE analysis of egg white proteins during incubation revealed discrete changes in the profile of major proteins, whereas the stability of some less abundant antimicrobial proteins seemed more affected. To conclude, the antibacterial activity of egg white proteins progressively decreased during the first half of egg incubation, possibly resulting from the alteration of specific antimicrobial proteins. This apparent decline may be partly counterbalanced in embryonated eggs by the increase in egg white protein concentration. The antibacterial potential of egg white is very effective during early stages of embryonic development but its alteration during incubation suggests that extra-embryonic structures could then progressively ensure protective functions.


antibacterial property; egg white; embryonated egg; incubation; unfertilized egg

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