Obesity-induced dysfunctions in female reproduction: lessons from birds and mammals. Academic Article uri icon


  • Follicle wall rupture and ovum release, i.e., ovulation, has been described as a controlled inflammatory event. The process involves tissue remodeling achieved through leukocyte-mediated proteolysis. In birds, ovulation is the first step in the energy-intensive process of egg formation, yet hens that consume energy in excess of productive requirements experience impaired egg-laying ability. Broiler chickens, selected for rapid lean muscle gain, and coincidentally hyperphagia, develop adult obesity when given free access to feed. Obese broiler hens experience elevated circulating concentrations of insulin and leptin, changes in lipid and lipoprotein metabolism similar to those of human metabolic syndrome, as well as increased systemic inflammation. Overall, the manifestations in poultry are similar to those of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. It was shown recently that, in hens, as in mammals, changes in lipid synthesis and metabolism cause granulosa cell apoptosis and altered immune function and hormone production, further compromising ovarian function. To date, there is insufficient information on the means used by the ovary to direct leukocyte function toward successful ovulation. More information is needed regarding the control of proteolytic actions by leukocytes with regards to the roles of specific enzymes in both ovulation and atresia. The broiler hen has provided unique insight into the interrelations of energy intake, obesity, leukocyte function, and reproduction. Additional work with this model can serve the dual purposes of improving avian reproduction and providing novel insights into polycystic ovary syndrome in women.

published proceedings

  • Adv Nutr

altmetric score

  • 6.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Walzem, R. L., & Chen, S.

citation count

  • 42

complete list of authors

  • Walzem, Rosemary L||Chen, Shuen-ei

publication date

  • March 2014