Circadian disruption and divergent microbiota acquisition under extended photoperiod regimens in chicken. Academic Article uri icon


  • The gut microbiota is crucial for metabolic homeostasis, immunity, growth and overall health, and it is recognized that early-life microbiota acquisition is a pivotal event for later-life health. Recent studies show that gut microbiota diversity and functional activity are synchronized with the host circadian rhythms in healthy individuals, and circadian disruption elicits dysbiosis in mammalian models. However, no studies have determined the associations between circadian disruption in early life, microbiota colonization, and the consequences for microbiota structure in birds. Chickens, as a major source of protein around the world, are one of the most important agricultural species, and their gut and metabolic health are significant concerns. The poultry industry routinely employs extended photoperiods (>18 h light) as a management tool, and their impacts on the chicken circadian, its role in gut microbiota acquisition in early life (first 3 weeks of life), and consequences for later life microbiota structure remain unknown. In this study, the objectives were to (a) characterize circadian activity under two different light regimes in layer chicken (12/12 h' Light/Dark (LD) and 23/1 h LD), (b) characterize gut microbiota acquisition and composition in the first 4 weeks of life, (c) determine if gut microbiota oscillate in synchrony with the host circadian rhythm, and (d) to determine if fecal microbiota is representative of cecal microbiota in early life. Expression of clock genes (clock, bmal1, and per2) was assayed, and fecal and cecal microbiotas were characterized using 16S rRNA gene amplicon analyses from birds raised under two photoperiod treatments. Chickens raised under 12/12 LD photoperiods exhibited rhythmic clock gene activity, which was absent in birds raised under the extended (23/1 LD) photoperiod. There was differential microbiota acquisition under different photoperiod regimes in newly hatched chicks. Gut microbiota members showed a similar oscillating pattern as the host, but this association was not as strong as found in mammals. Finally, the fecal microbiota was found to be not representative of cecal microbiota membership and structure in young birds. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate the use of photoperiods to modulate microbiota acquisition in newly hatched chicks, and show their potential as a tool to promote the colonization of beneficial microorganisms.

published proceedings

  • PeerJ

altmetric score

  • 24.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Hieke, A., Hubert, S. M., & Athrey, G.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Hieke, Anne-Sophie Charlotte||Hubert, Shawna Marie||Athrey, Giridhar

publication date

  • March 2019


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