Indexed on: 24 Mar '10Published on: 24 Mar '10Published in: Poultry science
Leptin and the sympathetic nervous system have a unique role in linking nutritional status to skeletal metabolism in mammals. Such a regulatory mechanism has not been identified in birds but would be beneficial to signal information about energy reserves to an organ system essential for locomotion, reproduction, and survival. To explore this potential role of leptin and the sympathetic nervous system in birds, an ex vivo chick tibiotarsal model was used to test the effects of leptin and sympathetic activity on longitudinal bone growth and the expression of chondrocyte markers. Reverse transcription-PCR analysis revealed the expression of chicken leptin receptor mRNA as well as both alpha-adrenergic (alpha1A, alpha2A, alpha2B, alpha2C) and beta adrenergic (beta1, beta2) receptor subtype mRNA in the whole bone. Incubation with norepinephrine (NE; 0, 10, or 100 microM for 4 d) caused a significant increase in distal condyle length as compared with vehicle-treated, contralateral tibiotarsi. In contrast, no change in condyle length was detected after leptin treatment (0 or 10 nM or 1 microM for 4 d). Analysis of cell proliferation by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation revealed no increase in bromodeoxyuridine-positive cells in the condyles in response to leptin or NE treatments. Real-time PCR analysis showed that NE enhanced type X collagen mRNA expression, a marker of mature hypertrophic chondrocytes, with no effect on type II collagen mRNA, the matrix protein secreted by proliferating chondrocytes. Leptin treatment had no effect on the expression of either matrix protein. Treatment with agonists specific for alpha- or beta-adrenergic receptors indicates that the activation of alpha-adrenergic receptors is most likely responsible for the sympathetic effect on type X collagen gene expression. These results suggest that NE and other sympathetic agonists have positive effects on bone elongation and the changes in critical genes associated with this process. These neurotransmitters may facilitate this by promoting chondrocyte maturation. These studies represent novel evidence suggesting a role of sympathetic tone in the regulation of skeletal growth in avian species.