Neutral detergent-soluble fiber improves gut barrier function in twenty-five-day-old weaned rabbits

M. S. Gomez-Conde, J. Garcia, S. Chamorro, P. Eiras, P. G. Rebollar, A. Pérez De Rozas, I. Badiola, C. De Blas, R. Carabaño

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    The effect of neutral detergent-soluble fiber level on gut barrier function and intestinal microbiota was examined in weaned rabbits. A control diet (AH) containing 103 g of neutral detergent-soluble fiber/kg of DM included alfalfa hay as main source of fiber. Another diet (B-AP) was formulated by replacing half of the alfalfa hay with a mixture of beet and apple pulp resulting in 131 g of soluble fiber/kg of DM. A third diet (OH) was obtained by substituting half of the alfalfa hay with a mix of oat hulls and a soybean protein concentrate and contained 79 g of soluble fiber/kg of DM. Rabbits weaned at 25 d and slaughtered at 35 d were used to determine ileal digestibility, jejunal morphology, sucrase activity, lamina propria lymphocytes, and intestinal microbiota. Suckling 35-d-old rabbits were used to assess mucosa morphology. Mortality (from weaning to 63 d of age) was also determined. Villous height of the jejunal mucosa increased with soluble fiber (P = 0.001). Rabbits fed with the greatest level of soluble fiber (BA-P diet) showed the highest villous height/crypt depth ratio (8.14; P = 0.001), sucrase specific activity (8,671 μmol of glucose/g of protein; P = 0.019), and the greatest ileal starch digestibility (96.8%; P = 0.002). The opposite effects were observed in rabbits fed decreased levels of soluble fiber (AH and OH diets; 4.70, 5,848 μmol of glucose/g of protein, as average, respectively). The lowest ileal starch digestibility was detected for animals fed OH diet (93.2%). Suckling rabbits of the same age showed a lower villous height/crypt depth ratio (6.70) compared with the B-AP diet group, but this ratio was higher than the AH or OH diet groups. Lower levels of soluble fiber tended (P = 0.074) to increase the cellular immune response (CDS+ lymphocytes). Diet affected IL-2 production (CD25+, P = 0.029; CD5+CD25+, P = 0.057), with no clear relationship between soluble fiber and IL-2. The intestinal microbiota biodiversity was not affected by diets (P ≥ 0.38). Rabbits fed the B-AP and AH diets had a reduced cecal frequency of detection compatible with Campylobacter spp. (20.3 vs. 37.8, P = 0.074), and Clostridium perfringens (4.3 vs. 17.6%, P = 0.047), compared with the OH diet group. Moreover, the mortality rates decreased from 14.4 (OH diet) to 5.1% (B-AP diet) with the increased presence of soluble fiber in the diet. In conclusion, increased levels of dietary soluble fiber improve mucosal integrity and functionality. ©2007 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3313-3321
    JournalJournal of Animal Science
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


    • Immune response
    • Intestinal microbiota
    • Mucosa integrity
    • Rabbit
    • Soluble fiber

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