Trace element nutrition and bone metabolism

Categoria: 50esimo CN2014

D. R. KORVER1* and C. A. TORRES1,2
1Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2P5.
2Current address: Nutreco Poultry Research Centre, Ctra. Cm. 4004, Km. 10,5 45950, Casarrubios del Monte (Toledo) Spain.


Bone development and metabolism is essential to the health and productivity of poultry. Although most research in poultry bone metabolism is understandably focused on calcium and phosphorus, trace elements are essential for proper bone formation and maintenance as well. Bone formation starts in the egg at approximately 3.5 days of incubation with the formation of a cartilage model (Osdoby and Caplan, 1981), with mineralization beginning at approximately 10 days of incubation (Pechak et al., 1986). As the embryo develops, ossification begins at the mid-region along the length of the developing bone. The mineralized region begins to extend towards either end of the bone, and the cartilaginous growth plates form a new organic framework for the linear growth of the bone.


Trace elements and bone metabolism

Bone tissue consists of a cartilage matrix, containing about 95% collagen (Knott and Bailey, 1999; Rath et al., 2000) which gives the bone tensile strength (Rath et al., 2000; Williams et al., 2004; Saito and Marumo, 2010), and mineral, most of which is in the form of hydroxyapatite (Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2; Rath et al., 2000). The main role of trace elements in bone formation is the formation of the organic matrix which forms a scaffold which is subsequently mineralized.

A number of trace elements play important roles in bone metabolism, but copper, zinc and manganese are among the most important. The copper-dependent enzyme lysyl oxidase is involved in the cross-linking of elastin and collagen in the organic matrix of bone (Marturano et al., 2014), which gives tensile strength and elasticity to bones. Manganese is a cofactor for polymerase and galactotransferase, which are involved in the biosynthesis of chondroitin sulphate (Leach et al., 1969), which is a major component of the bone hyaline cartilage structure (Eyre, 2004). A deficiency in Mn reduced chick bone size (Caskey et al.,
1939), likely due to reduced chondroitin sulphate content of the bone organic matrix (Leach et al., 1969). Zinc is a cofactor for collagenase (Starcher et al., 1980), which cleaves pro-collagen into collagen, and for bone alkaline phosphatase (Seo et al., 2010), which releases phosphorus from phosphates at the site of bone calcification for formation of hydroxyapatite. Additionally, zinc stimulates osteoblast proliferation and osteoprotegerin activity (Liang et al., 2012). Zinc also influences gene transcription at the growth plate during long bone growth (Oviedo-Rondón et al., 2006). Zinc deficiency reduced collagenase activity and subsequently collagen synthesis in chicks (Starcher et al., 1980). Other trace elements involved in bone metabolism include fluorine, iron, selenium and boron (Zofkova et al., 2013).

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Dietary trace element supplementation

The nutritional requirements of poultry for each of the main trace elements involved in bone metabolism are quite well understood, and little refinement to the recommended feeding levels has been made in recent years. Of much greater interest to poultry nutritionists is the role of chelated trace elements (trace elements chelated to specific organic ligands; organic trace elements). The basic rationale for feeding organic trace elements is the protection of the trace element atom from dietary compounds that might bind and reduce digestibility or absorption by the gut (Yuet al., 2010). In general, commercially-available organic trace element products are intended to have increased bioavailability relative to the more traditional inorganic element supplements such as sulfates or oxides (Guo et al., 2001; Bao et al., 2007; Huang et al., 2009). The increased bioavailability of organic trace elements may be useful in situations where the diet contains factors which might bind the mineral and reduce digestibility, such as phytate (Tahir et al., 2012). Increasing trace element bioavailability through the use of organic trace elements may to increase bone mineralization in broilers when supplemented in the chick’s diet (Kidd et al., 1992).

In laying hens, the continual deposition and resorption of medullary bone implies an important continued role for trace elements in laying hen diets. Medullary bone is deposited with a proteoglycan matrix (Candlish and Holt, 1971), with the primary glycosaminoglycan being keratin sulphate (Fisher and Schraer, 1982). However, little research on the effects of trace element nutrition on the deposition and resorption of medullary has been reported.

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Maternal trace element nutrition

Genetic selection of broilers for more rapid growth rate has come almost exclusively as a result of post-hatch growth; the incubation period for rapidly-growing commercial broilers and unselected lines has remained relatively constant. Since bone development begins in ovo, maternal transfer of trace elements, and the influence of trace element form in the hen diet has received increased research attention recently (Hudson et al., 2004; Sun et al., 2012; Torres 2012). Because rapid post-hatch growth can compromise bone integrity (Williams et al., 2004), increasing the development of bone during incubation may prove to be an important means of maintaining skeletal health in fast-growing broilers.



The formation of a sound skeletal system is dependent upon the proper formation and maintenance of the organic component of bones. Both the embryonic cartilage model and the cartilage growth plate are each dependent on the activity of enzymes containing trace elements or requiring these elements as co-factors. Current research in poultry trace element nutrition has largely focused on various organic chelates intended to increase bioavailability to the bird. However, effects of organic trace elements beyond requiring a lower level of supplementation to avoid deficiency signs have often been difficult to prove. Nevertheless, as modern poultry are increasingly selected for increased growth rate (broilers) or egg production (laying hens), all aspects of bone metabolism must be fully understood to allow for continued bird health and productivity.



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