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Intestinal gene expression in pigs: effects of reduced feed intake during weaning and potential impact of dietary components

  • Eva Bauer (a1) (a2), Barbara U. Metzler-Zebeli (a3), Martin W. A. Verstegen (a2) and Rainer Mosenthin (a1)


The weaning transition is characterised by morphological, histological and microbial changes, often leading to weaning-associated disorders. These intestinal changes can partly be ascribed to the lack of luminal nutrition arising from the reduced feed intake common in pigs after weaning. It is increasingly becoming clear that changes in the supply with enteral nutrients may have major impacts on intestinal gene expression. Furthermore, the major dietary constituents, i.e. carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids, participate in the regulation of intestinal gene expression. However, nutrients may also escape digestion by mammalian enzymes in the upper gastrointestinal tract. These nutrients can be used by the microflora, resulting in the production of bacterial metabolites, for example, SCFA, which may affect intestinal gene expression indirectly. The present review provides an insight on possible effects of reduced feed intake on intestinal gene expression, as it may occur post-weaning. Detailed knowledge on effects of reduced feed intake on intestinal gene expression may help to understand weaning-associated intestinal dysfunctions and diseases. Examples are given of intestinal genes which may be altered in their expression due to supply with specific nutrients. In that way, gene expression could be modulated by dietary means, thereby acting as a potential therapeutic tool. This could be achieved, for example, by influencing genes coding for digestive or absorptive proteins, thus optimising digestive function and metabolism, but also with regard to immune response, or by influencing proliferative processes, thereby enhancing mucosal repair. This would be of special interest when designing a diet to overcome weaning-associated problems.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr Eva Bauer, fax +49 711 459 22421, email


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