Early weaning increases intestinal permeability, alters expression of cytokine and tight junction proteins, and activates mitogen-activated protein kinases in pigs.J Anim Sci. 2013 Mar; 91(3):1094-101.JA
Although weaning stress has been reported to impair intestinal barrier function, the mechanisms have not yet been elucidated. In the present study, the intestinal morphology and permeability and mRNA expressions of tight junction proteins and cytokines in the intestine of piglets during the 2 wk after weaning were assessed. The phosphorylated (activated) ratios of p38, c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), and extracellular regulated kinases (ERK1/2) were determined to investigate whether mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways are involved in the early weaning process. A shorter villus and deeper crypt were observed on d 3 and 7 postweaning. Although damaged intestinal morphology recovered to preweaning values on d 14 postweaning, the intestinal mucosal barrier, which was reflected by transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) and paracellular flux of dextran (4 kDa) in the Ussing chamber and tight junction protein expression, was not recovered. Compared with the preweaning stage (d 0), jejunal TER and mRNA expressions of occludin and claudin-1 on d 3, 7, and 14 postweaning and Zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) mRNA on d 3 and 7 postweaning were reduced, and paracellular flux of dextran on d 3, 7, and 14 postweaning was increased. An increase (P < 0.05) of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) mRNA on d 3 and d 7 postweaning and an increase (P < 0.05) of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) mRNA on d 3 postweaning were observed compared with d 0. No significant increase of transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) mRNA after weaning was observed. The phosphorylated (activated) ratios of JNK and p38 on d 3 and 7 postweaning and the phosphorylated ratio of ERK1/2 on d 3 postweaning were increased (P < 0.05) compared with d 0. The results indicated that early weaning induced sustained impairment in the intestinal barrier, decreased mRNA expression of tight junction proteins, and upregulated the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, but anti-inflammatory cytokines were not affected in the intestine of piglets. The recovery of the intestinal barrier function was slower than that of the intestinal mucosal morphology. The weaning stress activated MAPK signaling pathways in the intestine, which may be an important mechanism of weaning-associated enteric disorders of piglets.