Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Gut response induced by weaning in piglet features marked changes in immune and inflammatory response.

Functional & Integrative Genomics. DOI: 10.1007/s10142-014-0396-x. [2014]

Bomba L, Minuti A, Moisá SJ, Trevisi E, Eufemi E, Lizier M, Chegdani F, Lucchini F, Rzepus M, Prandini A, Rossi F, Mazza R, Bertoni G, Loor JJ, Ajmone-Marsan P. 


At weaning, piglets are exposed to many stressors, such as separation from the sow, mixing with other litters, end of lactational immunity, and a change in their environment and gut microbiota.

The sudden change of feeding regime after weaning causes morphological and histological changes in the small intestine which are critical for the immature digestive system.

Sixteen female piglets were studied to assess the effect of sorbic acid supplementation on the small intestine tissue transcriptome.

At weaning day (T0, piglet age 28 days), four piglets were sacrificed and ileal tissue samples collected.

The remaining 12 piglets were weighed and randomly assigned to different postweaning (T5, piglet age 33 days) diets.

Diet A (n = 6) contained 5 g/kg of sorbic acid. In diet B (n = 6), the organic acids were replaced by barley flour.

Total RNA was isolated and then hybridized to CombiMatrix CustomArray™ 90-K platform microarrays, screening about 30 K genes.

Even though diet had no detectable effect on the transcriptome during the first 5 days after weaning, results highlighted some of the response mechanisms to the stress of weaning occurring in the piglet gut.

A total of 205 differentially expressed genes were used for functional analysis using the bioinformatics tools BLAST2GO, Ingenuity Pathway Analysis 8.0, and Dynamic Impact Approach (DIA).

Bioinformatic analysis revealed that apoptosis, RIG-I-like, and NOD-like receptor signaling were altered as a result of weaning.

Interferons and caspases gene families were the most activated after weaning in response to piglets to multiple stressors.

Results suggest that immune and inflammatory responses were activated and likely are a cause of small intestine atrophy as revealed by a decrease in villus height and villus/crypt ratio.