Citrulline and intestinal fatty acid-binding protein: Longitudinal markers of postweaning small intestinal function in pigs?

M. Berkeveld, P. Langendijk, J.H.M. Verheijden, M.A.M. Taverne, A. van Nes, P. van Haard, A.P. Koets

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The objective of the current study was to investigate whether plasma citrulline or intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP) concentrations might be used as longitudinal markers for small intestinal function in piglets after weaning. Plasma citrulline and I-FABP concentrations were measured longitudinally in weaned and unweaned piglets, and related to intestinal absorption values (i.e., plasma mannitol and 3-xylose concentrations in a sugar absorption test). Within each litter (n = 10), 2 piglets with a close-to-litter-average BW were selected. At 20.8 ± 0.4 d of age, the selected piglets per litter were either weaned conventionally (CW) or remained with the sow (UNW). One day before, and 0.5, 2, 4, and 7 d after weaning of the CW piglets, the selected piglets of both groups were subjected to a sugar absorption test. After a 2-h fast, piglets were administered an oral dose of 2 mL/kg of sugar solution, containing 50 mg/kg of mannitol and 100 mg/kg of 3-xylose. One hour after administration, a blood sample was collected from a jugular vein for determination of plasma I-FABP, citrulline, mannitol, and 3-xylose concentrations. Plasma I-FABP concentration showed great variation within treatments, and no difference was observed in plasma I-FABP concentrations between the CW and UNW treatments (P = 0.63). The absorption of 3-xylose was not different between treatments (P = 0.83). Mannitol absorption, however, was less in the weaned CW piglets compared with the UNW piglets (P = 0.003), with the nadir on d 4 postweaning. Weaning also reduced plasma citrulline concentrations in the CW treatment compared with the UNW treatment (P <0.001). On d 4 and 7 postweaning, plasma citrulline concentrations of CW piglets were less (P <0.001 and P = 0.0013) than preweaning values. Furthermore, in the CW treatment, plasma citrulline concentrations correlated with plasma mannitol concentrations at d 4 postweaning (r = 0.89, P = 0.008) and overall (r = 0.76, P = 0.001). Based on these results, plasma citrulline concentration seems to be a possible marker for monitoring intestinal function in pigs after weaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3440-3449
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • enhanced expression
  • plasma citrulline
  • enterocyte mass
  • crypt depth
  • weaned pigs
  • feed-intake
  • piglets
  • glutamine
  • absorption
  • morphology

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