Avian eggs contain a variety of maternally-derived substances that can influence the development and performance of offspring. The levels of these egg compounds vary in relation to environmental and genetic factors, but little is known about whether there are correlative links between maternal substances in the egg underlying common and different pathways of maternal effects. In the present study, we investigated genetically determined variability and mutually adjusted deposition of sex hormones (testosterone-T, androstenedione-A4 and progesterone-P4), antibodies (IgY) and antimicrobial proteins (lysozyme) in eggs of Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). We used different genetic lines that were independently selected for yolk T concentrations, duration of tonic immobility and social reinstatement behaviour, since both selections for behavioural traits (fearfulness and social motivation, respectively) produced considerable correlative responses in yolk androgen levels. A higher selection potential was found for increased rather than decreased yolk T concentrations, suggesting that there is a physiological minimum in egg T levels. Line differences in yolk IgYconcentrations were manifested within each selection experiment, but no consistent inter-line pattern between yolk IgY and T was revealed. On the other hand, a consistent inverse inter-line pattern was recorded between yolk IgY and P4 in both selections for behavioural traits. In addition, selections for contrasting fearfulness and social motivation were associated with changes in albumen lysozyme concentrations and an inverse inter-line pattern between the deposition of yolk IgY and albumen lysozyme was found in lines selected for the level of social motivation. Thus, our results demonstrate genetically-driven changes in deposition of yolk T, P4, antibodies and albumen lysozyme in the egg. This genetic variability can partially explain mutually adjusted maternal deposition of sex hormones and immune-competent molecules but the inconsistent pattern of inter-line differences across all selections indicates that there are other underlying mechanisms, which require further studies.
- [PubMed - in process]