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Pre-hatching and post-hatching environmental factors related to epigenetic mechanisms in poultry
Journal of Animal Science  (IF3.159),  Pub Date : 2021-12-21, DOI: 10.1093/jas/skab370
Aleksandra Dunislawska, Elzbieta Pietrzak, Ramesha Wishna Kadawarage, Aleksandra Beldowska, Maria Siwek

Epigenetic modifications are phenotypic changes unrelated to the modification of the DNA sequence. These modifications are essential for regulating cellular differentiation and organism development. In this case, epigenetics controls how the animal’s genetic potential is used. The main epigenetic mechanisms are microRNA activity, DNA methylation, and histone modification. The literature has repeatedly shown that environmental modulation has a significant influence on the regulation of epigenetic mechanisms in poultry. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the current state of the knowledge in poultry epigenetics in terms of issues relevant to overall poultry production and the improvement of the health status in chickens and other poultry species. One of the main differences between birds and mammals is the stage of embryonic development. The bird’s embryo develops outside its mother, so an optimal environment of egg incubation before hatching is crucial for development. It is also the moment when many factors influence the activation of epigenetic mechanisms, i.e., incubation temperature, humidity, light, as well as in ovo treatments. Epigenome of the adult birds might be modulated by nutrition, supplementation, and treatment, as well as modification of the intestinal microbiota. In addition, the activation of epigenetic mechanisms is influenced by pathogens (i.e., pathogenic bacteria, toxins, viruses, and fungi) as well as the maintenance conditions. Farm animal epigenetics is still a big challenge for scientists. This is a research area with many open questions. Modern methods of epigenetic analysis can serve both in the analysis of biological mechanisms and in the research and applied to production system, poultry health, and welfare.