At the time of oviposition, the chicken embryo is in its blastodermal stage. The blastoderm displays the unique ability to undergo developmental arrest at low temperatures in a process called “embryonic diapause.” In the wild, diapause occurs in freshly laid eggs until the last egg of the clutch has been laid, providing an evolutionary advantage to hens that can synchronously hatch their eggs. The poultry industry utilizes the diapause phenomenon to store eggs before incubation, thereby mitigating their logistic problems. The embryos can only be stored at particular embryonic stages—termed “diapause developmental window” (DW)—if they are to continue to develop normally thereafter. Both cellular and molecular mechanisms define the limits of this DW which broadly comply with onset of blastulation to early gastrulation. Storage conditions affect the cellular and molecular characteristics of the embryo during this window and their ability to successfully resume development (SRD). At storage temperatures of ~12°C to 18°C, embryos can undergo diapause for a short period (up to 7 days (d)) without affecting SRD. However, following longer period of diapause (up to 28 d), embryo stored at ~12°C, but not at ~18°C, can resume development normally. Moreover, eggs can be heated before or during the storage period which will lead to their commencing in development; however, unlike the non-heated embryos, the storage temperature for heated embryos, which are more advance in developing, is not clear. Thus, based on SRD, this review brings evidence supporting the notion that a lower storage temperature is beneficial for early-stage blastoderms whereas a higher storage temperature is favorable for later-stage/gastrulating embryos. Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the relationship between storage temperature and development stage within the DW is rather limited. However, it is expected to become relevant in light of the effect of selective breeding of modern avian birds on the advancement of embryonic development stage. Thus, this review discusses parameters that are regulated during the DW and affect SRD, and presents the need to adopt new storage techniques. The pre-managerial decision of required duration of storage with manipulation of storage temperature in the currently used storage techniques may improve SRD characteristics.
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- diapause developmental window
- egg storage
- embryonic diapause