Increased intestinal barrier function in the small intestine of formula-fed neonatal piglets
Within-litter birth weight variation is adversely correlated to piglet survival and postnatal growth. A less efficient epithelial barrier function in light piglets may partly explain this inverse relationship between birth weight and zootechnical performance. A compromised epithelial barrier increases paracellular permeability; consequently, toxins, allergenic compounds, or bacteria may enter systemic circulation and induce inflammatory responses. Dietary effects on function of gut epithelium of piglet are largely unknown. This study investigated epithelial barrier function of the small intestine of normal birth weight (NBW) piglets (1.46 ± 0.10 kg) and low birth weight (LBW) piglets (<1 kg at birth) in relation to their diet. Sixteen pairs of 3-d-old LBW and NBW piglets were randomly assigned to 3 groups: a sow-fed control group euthanized at day 3 of age (SOW3), piglets sow fed until day 10 (SOW10), and formula-fed piglets fed formula from day 3 until day 10 (FOR10). To measure gut permeability, piglets were dosed intragastrically with 0.75 g lactulose/kg BW and 0.3 g mannitol/kg BW 4 h before euthanasia. Urinary sugar excretion was measured using enzymatic spectrophotometry. Irrespective of birth weight, lactulose levels of FOR10 (4.4 ± 2.3 mmol/L) tended to be lower (P = 0.07) than SOW10 (26.4 ± 10.2 mmol/L) indicating a reduced paracellular intestinal permeability in FOR10. This reduction was associated with a 6-fold elevated (P < 0.01) protein expression of occludin, an important tight junction protein, in FOR10 compared to SOW10. Mannitol levels in FOR10 (31.0 ± 18.2 mmol/L) did not differ (P = 0.28) from SOW10 (61.1 ± 10.2 mmol/L). However, shorter villi (P < 0.01) in FOR10 indicated a reduced absorptive capacity. In conclusion, formula feeding caused minor symptoms of gastrointestinal dysfunction compared to sow-fed piglets irrespective of their birth weight.
Source (journal)
Journal of animal science. - Champaign, Ill., 1942, currens
Champaign, Ill. : 2012
0021-8812 [print]
1525-3163 [online]
90 :S:4 (2012) , p. 315-317
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (publisher's version - intranet only)
Research group
Project info
Neuropathy and neuroplasticity of the enteric nervous system playing a part in the ethiopathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis in the preterm piglet and neonatal rat.
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Creation 27.02.2013
Last edited 23.08.2022
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