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Weaning induces both transient and long-lasting modifications of absorptive, secretory, and barrier properties of piglet intestine

This study aimed at investigating intestinal physiology of piglets at weaning. Sixty piglets weaned at 21 days were 2day-food-deprived then tube-fed using two different diets (a conventional diet vs. a wheat-enriched diet). They were slaughtered at day 0, day 2, day 5, day 8 or day 15 post-weaning. Jejunum, ileum and colon were mounted in Ussing chambers. In addition, jejunum of four growing pigs was studied 35 days after weaning.

Secretory function was assessed by basal short-circuit current (Isc) and secretagogue-stimulated Isc. Glucose absorption was measured by the increase in Isc after addition of glucose. Epithelial barrier function was measured by transmucosal resistance (R) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) fluxes across the epithelium. There were no significant differences between the animals fed the two diets for any of the parameters studied. As already described, a transient villus atrophy was observed. At the same time, we observed an increased basal Isc in jejunum and colon, increased glucose absorption and a dramatic drop of R in jejunum.

These parameters had returned to pre-weaning values by day 5. Weaning was also followed by long-lasting modifications. In jejunum, responses to the secretagogues and glucose absorption were decreased the second week after weaning and were not different between day 15 and day 35. Ileal transmucosal resistance exhibited an increase on day 5 and stayed stable thereafter. HRP flux in jejunum dropped the second day and stayed at this low level throughout the experiment. We conclude that weaning induces transient dramatic changes in intestinal physiology but is also a period of maturation of the intestine.

Reported by

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA-UMRVP)
Domaine de la Prise
35590 Saint-Gilles
France
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