Objectives: Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits. Lycopene has an antioxidant effect and protects against degenerative diseases. Moreover it decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and that of cancer because it may inhibit tumoral cells interfering with the insulin-like growth factors 1 (IGF-1) receptors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of high dietary lycopene supplementation in broiler chicken. Methods: A total of 36 male broiler chickens distributed over 6 pens and divided into two groups were fed two different diets: (C) control and (L) lycopene (500 mg lycopene kg-1 added to a basal diet). Three replicates per diet were used. At the end of the breeding cycle samples of spleen, liver and bursa of Fabricius were collected (n=6) and fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin for histopathological investigations. Tissues were routinely embedded in paraffin wax blocks, sectioned at 5 µm thicknesses and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. Additional liver sections were submitted to Periodic Acid Shiff-PAS stain in order to classify glycogen distribution in epatocytes by means of a semiquantitative assessment. Results: Liver samples of L group showed a widespread vacuolar degeneration and foci of necrosis. Glycogen accumulation was detected in vacuoles. Spleen and bursa of Fabricius of L group showed an increase of apoptosis in the follicles. Liver, spleen and bursa of Fabricius of C group did not show any lesion. Conclusions: High amount of lycopene added to a basal diet caused degenerative lesions in broiler tissues. This adverse effect of lycopene can be explained by assuming that its high concentration may decrease in vivo the IGF-1 activity interfering with receptors causing cellular apoptosis.
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