The cause of the increased egg weight in hens with lathyrism was investigated by feeding laying birds with diets containing beta-aminopropionitrile, the toxic principle of certain legume seeds in the genus Lathyrus. There was a significant increase (P less than 0.01) in the amount of albumen in the egg owing to an increased formation of thin white. The water permeability of the shell membranes demonstrated an increased porosity and a loss of tensile strength which contributed not only to a high water uptake but also to abnormalities of the shape of eggs during 'plumping'. It was concluded that a defect in the shell membrane protein system alters the membrane's general properties and that the increased egg weight in lathyrism is a result of the defect.
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