The hidden function of egg white antimicrobials: egg weight-dependent effects of avidin on avian embryo survival and hatchling phenotype

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By: Eva Krkavcová, Jakub Kreisinger, Ludmila Hyánková, Pavel Hyršl, Veronika Javůrková

Published in: Open Biology


Avidin is a key egg white antimicrobial protein with strong binding capacity for biotin, an essential growth and immune cell precursor. As such, it is assumed to have a pronounced, though still poorly explored, effect on hatchling phenotype. We tested the effect of experimentally increased egg white avidin concentration (AVIDIN+) on hatching success, chick morphology, post-hatching growth performance and innate immune function in a model bird, Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Probability of embryo survival in the late embryonic phase increased with increasing egg weight in control eggs, but not in AVIDIN+ eggs. Chicks hatching from lighter AVIDIN+ eggs had a shorter tarsus than chicks hatching from heavier AVIDIN+ eggs. This suggests that an increase in egg white avidin favours embryo survival in lighter eggs during late embryogenesis, but at the expense of reduced structural body size. Plasma complement activity in 6-day-old AVIDIN+ chicks decreased with increasing body mass and tarsus length; the opposite was observed in control chicks, implying that the later post-hatching innate immune function of larger chicks was compromised by an increase in egg white avidin concentration. Here, we document an important role of egg white antimicrobials in maintenance of embryo viability, avian hatchling morphology and immune phenotype.


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