Heat stress causes a decrease of fertility in roosters. Yet, the way acute heat stress affects protein expression remains poorly understood. This study investigated differential protein expression in testes of the L2 strain of Taiwan country chickens following acute heat stress. Twelve 45-week-old roosters were allocated into four groups, including control roosters kept at 25 °C, roosters subjected to 38 °C acute heat stress for 4 hours without recovery, with 2 hours of recovery, and with 6 hours of recovery. Testis samples were collected for morphologic assay and protein analysis. Some of the differentially expressed proteins were validated by Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Abnormal and apoptotic spermatogenic cells were observed at 2 hours of recovery after acute heat stress, especially among the spermatocytes. Two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis revealed that 119 protein spots were differentially expressed in chicken testes following heat stress, and peptide mass fingerprinting revealed that these spots contained 92 distinct proteins. In the heat-stressed samples, the heat shock proteins, chaperonin containing t-complex, and proteasome subunits were downregulated, and glutathione S-transferase, transgelin, and DJ-1 were upregulated. Our results demonstrate that acute heat stress impairs the processes of translation, protein folding, and protein degradation, and thus results in apoptosis and interferes with spermatogenesis. On the other hand, the increased expression of antioxidant enzymes, including glutathione S-transferase and DJ-1, may attenuate heat-induced damage. These findings may have implications for breeding chickens that can tolerate more extreme conditions
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