The use of intermittent lighting in broiler raising. 2. Effects on the somatotrophic and thyroid axes and on plasma testosterone levels.
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Male and female broiler chicks were raised separately in nearly continuous lighting [23 h light (L):1 h dark (D), CL] and consumed feed ad libitum. At 7 d of age, the intermittent lighting schedule (1L:3D, IL) was imposed on half of the chicks, whereas the other chicks remained under CL. In addition to performance characteristics, several parameters of the somatotrophic and thyrotrophic axes were studied together with plasma concentrations of testosterone. Males had a higher growth rate than females regardless of the imposed lighting schedule and this pronounced growth difference is reflected by higher plasma concentrations of growth hormone (GH), and a better GH receptor occupancy. Differences in growth rate between sexes could not be attributed to differences in circulating 3,3',5-triiodothyronine (T3) levels or to hepatic deiodination activities. However, from 3 wk of age onwards, males had significantly higher plasma testosterone levels than females. Plasma GH and T3 levels decreased whereas plasma insulin-like growth factor-I and thyroxine levels increased with age in all experimental groups. The age-related decline in plasma GH levels were less pronounced for males than for females. No major changes in other hormonal parameters or deiodination activities could be observed as a result of imposing IL, except for the higher plasma GH levels of IL chickens, and for plasma testosterone concentrations in IL males at Day 41, which were twice the levels found in their CL counterparts. These results therefore suggest that the somatotrophic axis as well as circulating testosterone levels mediate the sex-related differences in growth rate and the compensatory growth as present in males.