Plasma metabolomics indicates metabolic perturbations in low birth weight piglets supplemented with arginine

C. M. Getty, F. N. Almeida, A. A. Baratta, R. N. Dilger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large profit losses in the swine industry can be attributed to morbidity and mortality of piglets before weaning, especially in the low birth weight (LBW) piglet. Recent evidence suggests sow’s milk contains insufficient concentrations of Arg to support optimal growth and health of piglets. Therefore, our objective was to assess global metabolomic profiles and the potential for Arg supplementation to promote growth of LBW (≤0.9 kg BW) and average birth weight (ABW; 1.3 to 1.5 kg BW) piglets. Piglets were selected in littermate pairs at processing to receive either l-Arg or an isonitrogenous control (l-Ala) and weighed daily to assess growth rate, and blood was collected at approximately 16 d of age for metabolomics analysis. In terms of growth, LBW and ABW piglets supplemented with Arg weighed 22.3 and 12.7% less, respectively, at d 16 compared with Ala-supplemented piglets of the same birth weight group. Overall, differences (P < 0.05) were observed among treatments for metabolic pathways involving energy (i.e., tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates), AA, nucleotides, and fatty acids. Increased nucleotide turnover, indicative of an increase in DNA damage and cell death, was particularly noted in the LBW piglet. However, Arg supplementation reduced these effects to levels comparable to those observed in ABW piglets. Moreover, changes in glucose metabolism suggested a compromised ability to extract energy from dietary sources may have occurred in the LBW piglet, but these effects were partially recovered by Arg supplementation. We conclude that a reduction in the growth potential of LBW piglets may be associated with alterations in multiple metabolic pathways, and further reduction due to Arg supplementation may have resulted from perturbations in multiple metabolic pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5754-5763
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 18 2015


  • Arginine
  • Low birth weight
  • Metabolomics
  • Piglet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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