Female birds have been shown to manipulate offspring sex ratio. However, mechanisms of sex ratio bias are not well understood. Reduced feed availability and change in body condition can affect the mass of eggs in birds that could lead to a skew in sex ratio. We employed feed restriction in laying chickens (Gallus gallus) to induce a decrease in body condition and egg mass using 45 chicken hens in treatment and control groups. Feed restriction led to an overall decline of egg mass. In the second period of treatment (Days 9–18) with more severe feed restriction and a steeper decline of egg mass, the sex ratio per hen (proportion of male eggs) had a significant negative association with mean egg mass per hen. Based on this association, two groups of hens were selected from feed restriction group, that is, hens producing male bias with low egg mass and hens producing female bias with high egg mass with overall sex ratios of 0.71 and 0.44 respectively. Genomewide transcriptome analysis on the germinal disks of F1 preovulatory follicles collected at the time of occurrence of meiosis-I was performed. We did not find significantly differentially expressed genes in these two groups of hens. However, gene set enrichment analysis showed that a number of cellular processes related to cell cycle progression, mitotic/meiotic apparatus, and chromosomal movement were enriched in female-biased hens or high mean egg mass as compared with male-biased hens or low mean egg mass. The differentially expressed gene sets may be involved in meiotic drive regulating sex ratio in the chicken.
Aslam, M. A., Schokker, D., Groothuis, A. A. G., de Wit, A. A. C., Smits, M. A., & Woelders, H. (2015). Association of egg mass and egg sex: gene expression analysis from maternal RNA in the germinal disc region of layer hens (Gallus gallus). Biology of Reproduction, 92(6), . https://doi.org/10.1095/biolreprod.114.123380