With global warming, heat stress is becoming a pressing concern worldwide. In chickens, heat stress reduces food intake and growth, and increases body temperature and stress responses. Although it is believed that young chicks do not experience heat stress as they need a higher ambient temperature to survive, our series of studies in young chicks showed that they are sensitive to heat stress. This review summarizes current knowledge on amino acid metabolisms during heat stress, with special emphasis on the hypothermic functions of L-citrulline (L-Cit) and L-leucine (L-Leu), and the functions of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in terms of body temperature and heat stress regulation in chicks. Amino acid metabolism is severely affected by heat stress. For example, prolonged heat stress reduces plasma L-Cit in chicks and L-Leu in the brain and liver of embryos. L-Cit and L-Leu supplementation affords thermotolerance in young chicks. NPY expression is increased in the brains of heat-exposed chicks. NPY has a hypothermic action under control thermoneutral temperature and heat stress in chicks. The NPY-sub-receptor Y5 is a partial mediator of the hypothermic action of NPY. Further, NPY stimulates brain dopamine concentrations and acts as an anti-stress agent in heat-exposed fasted, but not fed chicks. In conclusion, young chicks can serve as a model animal for the study of heat stress in chickens. L-Cit, L-Leu, and NPY were identified as biomarkers of heat stress, with the potential to afford thermotolerance in chicks.
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