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Evelyn A Weaver and Ramesh Ramachandran

The follicular hierarchy in broiler breeder chicken ovary is often deranged due to excessive ovarian follicular recruitment, resulting in a condition that resembles polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women. Metformin is widely prescribed to correct PCOS and has been shown to affect granulosa cell functions in humans and rodent models. The objectives of this study are to determine the effects of metformin on signal transduction pathways, gene expression related to steroidogenesis, and progesterone secretion from granulosa cells isolated from the most recently recruited preovulatory and prehierarchical follicles of broiler breeder chickens. Granulosa cells were treated with 0, 1, 10, or 20 mM of metformin in the presence of FSH. The abundance of pAMPK, pACC, pERK, and pAkt was determined by Western blotting. The expression of genes related to progesterone biosynthesis was quantified by qPCR. Progesterone concentrations in culture media were quantified by ELISA. Metformin treatment did not have an effect on the abundance of pAMPK and pACC in prehierarchical follicles but significantly decreased the abundance of pERK and pAkt in a dose-dependent manner in preovulatory and prehierarchical follicles. The expression of genes related to steroidogenesis such as FSHR, STAR, CYP11A1, HSD3B, and progesterone secretion was significantly decreased in response to metformin treatment in a dose-dependent manner. Our data suggest that metformin treatment attenuates progesterone secretion via AMPK-independent pathways in granulosa cells of prehierarchical and preovulatory follicles of broiler breeder hens. Further studies are required to determine if metformin administration could ameliorate ovarian dysfunction in obese broiler breeder hens.

Open access

Evelyn A Weaver and Ramesh Ramachandran

In brief

The pathophysiology of the ovarian dysfunction encountered in broiler breeder hens remains poorly understood but is similar to a condition in women known as polycystic ovary syndrome. This study reveals that metformin may provide a cheap and effective method of improving ovarian function in broiler breeder hens.


Broiler breeder hens, the parent stock of commercial broiler chickens, have poor reproductive efficiency associated with aberrant and excessive recruitment of ovarian follicles which results in sub-optimal egg production, fertility, and hatchability. The reproductive dysfunction observed in these hens resembles polycystic ovary syndrome in women, a condition wherein metformin is prescribed as a treatment. The main objectives of this study were to determine the effect of metformin on body weight, abdominal fat pad weight, ovarian function, and plasma steroid hormone concentrations. Broiler breeder hens were treated with 0, 25, 50, or 75 mg/kg body weight of metformin mixed in the diet for 40 weeks (n =  45 hens/treatment; 2565 weeks of age). At 65 weeks of age, hens that received the highest dose of metformin had significantly lower body and abdominal fat pad weights (P  < 0.05) than the control. Metformin treatment, at all levels, normalized the preovulatory and prehierarchical ovarian follicular hierarchy. Metformin (50 or 75 mg/kg body weight) significantly increased the total number of eggs laid per hen during the entire production period and these hens had significantly greater fertility and hatchability at 65 weeks of age compared to the control (P  < 0.05). Metformin treatment at all levels altered the plasma profile of reproductive hormones, with significantly lower plasma testosterone concentrations and a decreased testosterone to androstenedione ratio in hens that received metformin (P  < 0.05). Future studies should focus on the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of metformin in improving the reproductive efficiency of broiler breeder hens.