The wooden breast condition is a myopathy affecting the pectoralis major (p. major) muscle in fast-growing commercial broiler lines. Currently, wooden breast–affected birds are phenotypically detected by palpation of the breast area, with affected birds having a very hard p. major muscle that is of lower value. The objective of this study was to compare the wooden breast myopathy in two fast-growing broiler lines (Lines A and B) with incidence of wooden breast to a slower growing broiler Line C with no phenotypically observable wooden breast. One of the characteristics of the wooden breast condition is fibrosis of the p. major muscle. Morphologic assessment of Lines A and B showed significant fibrosis in both lines, but the collagen distribution and arrangement of the collagen fibrils was different. In Line A, the collagen fibrils were tightly packed, whereas in Line B the collagen fibrils were diffuse. This difference in collagen organization may be due to the expression of the extracellular matrix proteoglycan decorin. Decorin is a regulator of collagen crosslinking and is expressed at significantly higher levels in Line A wooden breast–affected p. major muscle, which would lead to tightly packed collagen fibers due to high levels of collagen crosslinking. Furthermore, expression of the muscle-specific transcriptional regulatory factors for proliferation and differentiation of muscle cells leading to the regeneration of muscle in response to muscle damage was significantly elevated in Line A, and only the factor for differentiation, myogenin, was increased in Line B. The results from this study provide initial evidence that the etiology of the wooden breast myopathy may vary between fast-growing commercial broiler lines.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3