Effect of in ovo feeding of folic acid on the folate metabolism, immune function and epigenetic modification of immune effector molecules of broiler.
This study was conducted to investigate the effect of in ovo feeding (IOF) of folic acid on the folate metabolism, immune function and the involved epigenetic modification of broilers. A total of 400 (Cobb) hatching eggs were randomly divided into four groups (0, 50, 100 and 150 µg injection of folic acid at embryonic age 11 d), and chicks hatched from each treatment were randomly divided into six replicates with 12 broilers/replicate after incubation. The results indicated that, in ovo, 100- and 150-µg folic acid injections improved the hatchability. The average daily gain and feed conversion ratio increased in the 150-µg group during the late growth stage. Simultaneously, in the 100- and 150-µg groups, an increase was observed in hepatic folate content and the expression of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (d1 and 42) and methionine synthase reductase (d21). IgG and IgM concentrations, as well as plasma lysozyme activity of broilers, showed a marked increase along with increasing folic acid levels. The splenic expression levels of IL-2 and IL-4 were up-regulated, whereas that of IL-6 was down-regulated, in the 100- and 150-µg folic acid treatment groups. In addition, histone methylation in IL-2 and IL-4 promoters exhibited an enrichment of H3K4m2 but a loss of H3K9me2 with the increased amount of folic acid additive. In contrast, a decrease in H3K4m2 and an increase in H3K9me2 were observed in the IL-6 promoter in folic acid treatments. Furthermore, in ovo, the 150-µg folic acid injection improved the chromatin tightness of the IL-2 and IL-4 promoter regions. Our findings suggest that IOF of 150 µg of folic acid can improve the growth performance and folate metabolism of broilers, and enhance the relationship between immune function and epigenetic regulation of immune genes, which are involved with the alterations in chromatin conformation and histone methylation in their promoters.