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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Intestinal morphology and enzymatic activity in newly weaned pigs fed contrasting fiber concentrations and fiber properties

Hedemann MS, Eskildsen M, Laerke HN, Pedersen C, Lindberg JE, Laurinen P, Knudsen KEB


The main objective of this study was to determine the effect of fiber source and concentration on morphological characteristics, mucin staining pattern, and mucosal enzyme activities in the gastrointestinal tract of pigs. The experiment included 50 pigs from 10 litters weaned at 4 wk of age (BW 8.6 +/- 1.4 kg) and divided into 5 treatment groups. Diets containing fiber of various physico-chemical properties and concentrations were formulated to contain 73, 104, or 145 g of dietary fiber/kg of DM. The diets were based on raw wheat and barley flours. Pectin and barley hulls, representing soluble and insoluble fiber sources, respectively, were used to increase the fiber concentration. The pigs were fed the experimental diets for 9 d, and then the pigs were euthanized and the entire gastrointestinal tract was removed. Tissue samples were taken from the mid and distal small intestine and from the mid colon. Inclusion of pectin in the diets significantly decreased (P < 0.001) ADFI and ADG compared with pigs fed no pectin. The villi and the crypts were shorter in pigs fed pectin-containing diets, but the villous height/crypt depth ratio was unaltered. Pectin significantly decreased the area of mucins in the crypts of the small intestine, indicating that the pigs fed the pectin-containing diet would probably be more susceptible to pathogenic bacteria, although this cannot be separated from the impact on ADFI. The lectin-binding pattern of the intestinal mucosa was unaffected by diet. The activity of lactase and maltase was increased in pigs fed diets with high fiber content, whereas sucrase activity was increased in pigs fed the pectin-containing diets. The activity of the peptidases, aminopeptidase N and dipeptidylpeptidase IV, was increased when feeding high fiber diets, whereas the activity of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase remained unaffected by the experimental diets. In conclusion, the reduced feed intake observed with the pectin-containing diets could explain the lower villous height and crypt depth observed in this study. However, direct effects of pectin also are possible, and thus further study is warranted. Feeding pigs high insoluble fiber diets improved gut morphology by increasing villi length and increased mucosal enzyme activity when compared with pigs fed pectin-containing diets. The mucin content as determined by staining characteristics suggests that pigs fed high insoluble fiber diets might be better protected against pathogenic bacteria than pigs fed diets high in soluble fiber

Published in

Journal of Animal Science
2006, Volume: 84, number: 6, pages: 1375-1386