Chickens have been reported to have a low taste bud count and thus low taste acuity. However, more recent studies indicate that the earlier reported count of chicken taste buds may have been significantly underestimated. To answer the question of whether the taste sensing system in broiler chickens evolved during the breeding selection over the past decades, we compared the taste sensitivity to bitter and taste buds between a meat-type control strain – the 1955 Athens Canadian Random Bred (ACRB), and a modern high-yielding broiler strain – the 2012 Cobb 500. The behavioral tests showed that the ACRB did not avoid bitter taste solutions of quinine hydrochloride (QHCl) at the examined concentrations (0.5, 1, 2, and 4 mM) (P > 0.05), while the Cobb 500 significantly avoided both the 2 mM and 4 mM QHCl solutions (P < 0.01). The labeling of chicken taste buds using the molecular marker Vimentin revealed that Cobb 500 chickens had a slightly higher number (P < 0.1), but lower density of taste bud clusters in the palate (P < 0.01) and the base of the oral cavity (P < 0.05) compared to the ACRB. We also found that a single amino acid change occurred in the bitter taste receptor T2R7. However, the functional analyses using HEK293T cells transiently expressing T2R7 revealed that the functions of T2R7 were comparable between the two strains. Taken together, our results demonstrated that taste sensitivities could be affected by the selection of the broiler chickens. The modern high-yielding broilers, which have massive feed intake and appetite, had a higher sensitivity to bitter taste stimuli than the meat-type chicken strain which was established decades ago. This evolvement of taste sensitivities may be associated with the alterations of an upper level of taste system, rather than the peripheral taste system, including distribution of taste buds and functions of taste receptors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology