Moderate dietary protein restriction optimized gut microbiota and mucosal barrier in growing pig model

Xiyue Chen, Peixia Song, Peixin Fan, Ting He, Devin Jacobs, Crystal L. Levesque, Lee J. Johnston, Linbao Ji, Ning Ma, Yiqiang Chen, Jie Zhang, Jinshan Zhao, Xi Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Appropriate protein concentration is essential for animal at certain stage. This study evaluated the effects of different percentages of dietary protein restriction on intestinal health of growing pigs. Eighteen barrows were randomly assigned to a normal (18%), low (15%), and extremely low (12%) dietary protein concentration group for 30 days. Intestinal morphology and permeability, bacterial communities, expressions, and distributions of intestinal tight junction proteins, expressions of biomarkers of intestinal stem cells (ISCs) and chymous bacterial metabolites in ileum and colon were detected. The richness and diversity of bacterial community analysis with Chao and Shannon index were highest in the ileum of the 15% crude protein (CP) group. Ileal abundances of Streptococcaceae and Enterobacteriaceae decreased respectively, while beneficial Lactobacillaceae, Clostridiaceae_1, Actinomycetaceae, and Micrococcaceae increased their proportions with a protein reduction of 3 percentage points. Colonic abundances of Ruminococcaceae, Christensenellaceae, Clostridiaceae_1, Spirochaetaceae, and Bacterodales_S24-7_group declined respectively, while proportions of Lachnospiraceae, Prevotellaceae, and Veillonellaceae increased with dietary protein reduction. Concentrations of most bacterial metabolites decreased with decreasing dietary protein concentration. Ileal barrier function reflected by expressions of tight junction proteins (occludin, zo-3, claudin-3, and claudin-7) did not show significant decrease in the 15% CP group while sharply reduced in the 12% CP group compared to that in the 18% CP group. And in the 15% CP group, ileal distribution of claudin-3 mainly located in the cell membrane with complete morphological structure. In low-protein treatments, developments of intestinal villi and crypts were insufficient. The intestinal permeability reflected by serous lipopolysaccharide (LPS) kept stable in the 15% CP group while increased significantly in the 12% CP group. The expression of ISCs marked by Lgr5 slightly increased in ileum of the 15% CP group. Colonic expressions of tight junction proteins declined in extremely low protein levels. In conclusion, moderate protein restriction (15% CP) can optimize the ileal microbiota structure via strengthening beneficial microbial populations and suppressing harmful bacterial growth and altering the function of ileal tight junction proteins as well as epithelial cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number246
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - Jul 18 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Key R&D Program of China (2018YFD0500600, 2018YFD0500601, and 2017YFD0500501), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31722054, 31472101, and 31528018), the Beijing Nova Programme Interdisciplinary Cooperation Project (xxjc201804); the College of Animal Science and Technology Young Talents Program in China Agricultural University (2017DKA001), the 111 Project (B16044), the National Department Public Benefit Research Foundation (201403047), and the developmental fund for animal science by Shenzhen Jinxinnong Feed Co., Ltd.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Chen, Song, Fan, He, Jacobs, Levesque, Johnston, Ji, Ma, Chen, Zhang, Zhao and Ma.


  • Dietary protein restriction
  • Growing pigs
  • Intestinal microbiota
  • Intestinal stem cell
  • Mucosal barrier


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