Small intestine epithelial barrier function is compromised in pigs with low feed intake at weaning

M. A.M. Spreeuwenberg, J. M.A.J. Verdonk, H. R. Gaskins, M. W.A. Verstegen

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Compromising alterations in gastrointestinal architecture are common during the weaning transition of pigs. The relation between villous atrophy and epithelial barrier function at weaning is not well understood. This study evaluated in vitro transepithelial transport by Ussing metabolic chambers, local alterations in T-cell subsets and villous architecture at low energy intake level and their relation with lactose/protein ratios in the diet. Pigs (n = 66, 26 d old) were sampled either at weaning (d 0), d 1, 2 or 4 postweaning. Piglets received one of three diets at a low energy intake level, which differed in lactose and protein ratio as follows: low lactose/high protein (LL/HP), control (C), or high lactose/low protein (HL/LP). Mean digestible energy intake was 648 kJ/pig on d 1, 1668 kJ/pig on d 2, 1995 kJ/pig on d 3 and 1990 kJ/pig on d 4 postweaning. The CD4+/CD8+ T-lymphocytes ratio decreased after weaning (P < 0.05). Decreased paracellular transport (P < 0.01), greater villous height (P < 0.01), shallower crypts and lower villus/crypt ratios (P < 0.01) were observed on d 2 compared with d 0. Piglets consuming the HL/LP diet tended to have less paracellular transport (P < 0.10) and greater villous height (P < 0.10) compared with piglets fed the other diets. During the first 4 d postweaning, the effect of diet composition on mucosal integrity was not as important as the sequential effects of low energy intake at weaning. Stress and diminished enteral stimulation seem to compromise mucosal integrity as indicated by increased paracellular transport and altered T-cell subsets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1520-1527
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001


  • Energy intake
  • Epithelial barrier function
  • Piglets
  • T lymphocytes
  • Weaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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