(1) Background: Since the large-scale poultry industry has been established, femoral head necrosis (FHN) has always been a major leg disease in fast-growing broilers worldwide. Previous research suggested that cartilage homeostasis could be taken into consideration in the cause of FHN, but the evidence is insufficient. (2) Methods: One-day-old broiler chickens were randomly divided into three groups, 16 broilers per group. The birds in group L were injected intramuscularly with methylprednisolone (MP) twice a week for four weeks (12.5 mg·kg−1
). The birds in group H were injected intramuscularly with MP (20 mg·kg−1
) for 7 d (impulse treatment). The birds in group C were treated with sterile saline as a control group. Broilers were sacrificed at 42 and 56 d. Blood samples were collected from the jugular vein for ELISA and biochemical analysis. Bone samples, including femur, tibia, and humerus, were collected for histopathological analysis, bone parameters detection, and real-time quantitative PCR detection. (3) Results: The FHN broilers in group L and H both showed lower body weight (BW) and reduced bone parameters. In addition, the MP treatment resulted in reduced extracellular matrix (ECM) anabolism and enhanced ECM catabolism. Meanwhile, the autophagy and apoptosis of chondrocytes were enhanced, which led to the destruction of cartilage homeostasis. Moreover, the impulse MP injection increased the portion of birds with severer FHN, whereas the MP injection over a long period caused a more evident change in serum cytokine concentrations and bone metabolism indicators. (4) Conclusions: The imbalance of cartilage homeostasis may play a critical role in the development of FHN in broilers. FHN broilers induced by MP showed a more pronounced production of catabolic factors and suppressed the anabolic factors, which might activate the genes of the WNT signal pathway and hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), and then upregulate the transcription expression of ECM to restore homeostasis.
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