The effect of long-term food restriction on the sensitivity of the pituitary to exogenously administered chicken luteinizing hormone releasing hormone I (cLHRH-I) was investigated in three groups of broiler breeder females fed ad libitum, fed a restricted quantity of food or fed a restricted quantity of food to obtain an intermediate body weight between those of the first two groups. At 16 weeks of age, basal FSH release was higher in ad libitum fed birds, culminating in ovarian development and subsequent oestradiol production by the small follicles. At this age, LH secretion was independent of ovarian feedback factors. In all groups, cLHRH-I was most active in releasing LH in intact and ovariectomized animals and, to a lesser extent, in releasing FSH in ovariectomized birds. At 39 weeks of age, basal FSH concentrations were similar among intact animals of all groups, whereas LH concentrations differed among groups, with higher values in the restricted birds. This food effect was enhanced in ovariectomized birds. Furthermore, the high response to cLHRH-I in the ovariectomized, restricted birds compared with the ad libitum, ovariectomized group suggests an improved sensitivity of the hypothalamic–pituitary axis. In conclusion, birds fed ad libitum showed the highest responsiveness to ovarian factors and to cLHRH-I in releasing FSH in the period before sexual maturity. No effect of amount of feeding could be observed for LH. However, during the egg laying period, LH release by cLHRH-I was highly dependent on amount of feeding and on ovarian feedback regulation. This finding indicates that the amount of feeding can modify the sensitivity of the pituitary to cLHRH-I, and possibly to gonadal hormones, during the laying period.
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