Cuticle deposition improves the biosecurity of eggs through the laying cycle and can be measured on hatching eggs without compromising embryonic development

Maureen M Bain, Jiangxia Zheng, Melissa Zigler, Natasha Whenham, Fiona Quinlan-Pluck, Anita C Jones, Mark Roberts, Wiebke Icken, Victor E Olori, Ian C Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The cuticle is part of the egg's natural defense and it can be improved by genetic selection. Prior to adoption of this measurement in breeding programs, questions that need to be addressed are whether improved cuticle deposition will result in a reduced risk of eggs becoming contaminated and whether selection for this trait will have any unintended consequences on the incubation process. Bacterial penetration experiments were carried out using eggs from a pedigree line of broiler breeders (BB) and Rhode Island Red (RIR) layers. Within the natural variation in cuticle deposition in each line, a good cuticle was shown to reduce an egg's susceptibility to penetration by Escherichia coli (BB, P = 0.023) and Salmonella typhimurium (RIR, P < 0.001). Deglycosylation of cuticle proteins had little effect on their antimicrobial activity. The effect of bird age on cuticle deposition was also examined. Shell color decreased with age as anticipated; however, we found no evidence that cuticle deposition decreases with age, at least up to 50 wk. A thicker cuticle could affect the water vapor conductance (WPC) of hatching eggs. The WPC of eggs was, therefore, measured on eggs selected from the top and tail of the cuticle distribution, this time in a Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) pedigree line. Broiler breeder eggs were also tested. No evidence of a relationship between cuticle deposition and WPC was found for LSL or BB eggs. Cuticle deposition measurements require eggs to be stained. Here, we show that this has no adverse effect on embryo development at d 12 of incubation. Thus, we conclude that cuticle deposition is important in preventing bacterial penetration of eggs in genetically divergent breeds of chicken and that the measurement can be practically incorporated into breeding programs. This will contribute to improving the biosecurity of eggs by reducing vertical and horizontal transmission of potentially zoonotic and pathogenic organisms from parent to offspring.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPoultry Science
Early online date24 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cuticle
  • biosecurity
  • bacterial penetration
  • selection
  • water vapor conductance


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