Skip to main content Accessibility help

Pigs that are divergent in feed efficiency, differ in intestinal enzyme and nutrient transporter gene expression, nutrient digestibility and microbial activity

  • S. Vigors (a1), T. Sweeney (a2), C. J. O’Shea (a3), A. K. Kelly (a1) and J. V. O’Doherty (a1)...


Feed efficiency is an important trait in the future sustainability of pig production, however, the mechanisms involved are not fully elucidated. The objective of this study was to examine nutrient digestibility, organ weights, select bacterial populations, volatile fatty acids (VFA’s), enzyme and intestinal nutrient transporter gene expression in a pig population divergent in feed efficiency. Male pigs (n=75; initial BW 22.4 kg SEM 2.03 kg) were fed a standard finishing diet for 43 days before slaughter to evaluate feed intake and growth for the purpose of calculating residual feed intake (RFI). Phenotypic RFI was calculated as the residuals from a regression model regressing average daily feed intake (ADFI) on average daily gain (ADG) and midtest BW0.60 (MBW). On day 115, 16 pigs (85 kg SEM 2.8 kg), designated as high RFI (HRFI) and low RFI (LRFI) were slaughtered and digesta was collected to calculate the coefficient of apparent ileal digestibility (CAID), total tract nutrient digestibility (CATTD), microbial populations and VFA’s. Intestinal tissue was collected to examine intestinal nutrient transporter and enzyme gene expression. The LRFI pigs had lower ADFI (P<0.001), improved feed conversion ratio (P<0.001) and an improved RFI value relative to HRFI pigs (0.19 v. −0.14 SEM 0.08; P<0.001). The LRFI pigs had an increased CAID of gross energy (GE), and an improved CATTD of GE, nitrogen and dry matter compared to HRFI pigs (P<0.05). The LRFI pigs had higher relative gene expression levels of fatty acid binding transporter 2 (FABP2) (P<0.01), the sodium/glucose co-transporter 1 (SGLT1) (P<0.05), the glucose transporter GLUT2 (P<0.10), and the enzyme sucrase–isomaltase (SI) (P<0.05) in the jejunum. The LRFI pigs had increased populations of lactobacillus spp. in the caecum compared with HRFI pigs. In colonic digesta HRFI pigs had increased acetic acid concentrations (P<0.05). Differences in nutrient digestibility, intestinal microbial populations and gene expression levels of intestinal nutrient transporters could contribute to the biological processes responsible for feed efficiency in pigs.


Corresponding author



Hide All
Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) 1995. Official methods of analysis, 16th edition. AOAC, Washington, DC, USA.
Barea, R, Dubois, S, Gilbert, H, Sellier, P, van Milgen, J and Noblet, J 2010. Energy utilization in pigs selected for high and low residual feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 88, 20622072.
Bergman, E 1990. Energy contributions of volatile fatty acids from the gastrointestinal tract in various species. Physiological Reviews 70, 567590.
Chomczynski, P and Sacchi, N 2006. The single-step method of RNA isolation by acid guanidinium thiocyanate-phenol-chloroform extraction: twenty-something years on. Nature Protocols 1, 581585.
den Besten, G, van Eunen, K, Groen, AK, Venema, K, Reijngoud, D-J and Bakker, BM 2013. The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism. Journal of Lipid Research 54, 23252340.
Do, DN, Ostersen, T, Strathe, AB, Mark, T, Jensen, J and Kadarmideen, HN 2014. Genome-wide association and systems genetic analyses of residual feed intake, daily feed consumption, backfat and weight gain in pigs. BMC Genetics 15, 2727.
Dyer, J, Vayro, S, King, TP and Shirazi-Beechey, SP 2003. Glucose sensing in the intestinal epithelium. European Journal of Biochemistry 270, 33773388.
Egan, ÁM, Sweeney, T, Hayes, M and O’Doherty, JV 2015. Prawn shell chitosan has anti-obesogenic properties, influencing both nutrient digestibility and microbial populations in a pig model. PLoS One 10, e0144127.
Gilliland, SE 1990. Health and nutritional benefits from lactic acid bacteria. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 87, 175188.
Harris, AJ, Patience, JF, Lonergan, SM, Dekkers, JCM and Gabler, NK 2012. Improved nutrient digestibility and retention partially explains feed efficiency gains in pigs selected for low residual feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 90, 164166.
Hellemans, J, Mortier, G, De Paepe, A, Speleman, F and Vandesompele, J 2007. qBase relative quantification framework and software for management and automated analysis of real-time quantitative PCR data. Genome Biology 8, R19.
Herd, RM and Arthur, PF 2009. Physiological basis for residual feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 87, E64E71.
Kellett, GL and Brot-Laroche, E 2005. Apical GLUT2 a major pathway of intestinal sugar absorption. Diabetes 54, 30563062.
Kelly, AK, McGee, M, Crews, DH, Fahey, AG, Wylie, AR and Kenny, DA 2010. Effect of divergence in residual feed intake on feeding behavior, blood metabolic variables, and body composition traits in growing beef heifers. Journal of Animal Science 88, 109123.
Kil, DY, Kim, BG and Stein, HH 2013. Feed energy evaluation for growing pigs. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 26, 12051217.
Koch, RM, Swiger, LA, Chambers, D and Gregory, KE 1963. Efficiency of feed use in beef cattle. Journal of Animal Science 22, 486494.
Lee, C, Kim, J, Shin, SG and Hwang, S 2006. Absolute and relative QPCR quantification of plasmid copy number in Escherichia coli . Journal of Biotechnology 123, 273280.
Littman, DR and Pamer, EG 2011. Role of the commensal microbiota in normal and pathogenic host immune responses. Cell Host & Microbe 10, 311323.
Lynch, MB, O’Shea, CJ, Sweeney, T, Callan, JJ and O’Doherty, JV 2008. Effect of crude protein concentration and sugar-beet pulp on nutrient digestibility, nitrogen excretion, intestinal fermentation and manure ammonia and odour emissions from finisher pigs. Animal 2, 425434.
Macfarlane, S and Macfarlane, GT 2003. Regulation of short-chain fatty acid production. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 62, 6772.
Mani, V, Harris, AJ, Keating, AF, Weber, TE, Dekkers, JCM and Gabler, NK 2013. Intestinal integrity, endotoxin transport and detoxification in pigs divergently selected for residual feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 91, 21412150.
McBride, BW and Kelly, JM 1990. Energy cost of absorption and metabolism in the ruminant gastrointestinal tract and liver: a review. Journal of Animal Science 68, 29973010.
McCarthy, JF, Bowland, JP and Aherne, FX 1977. Influence of method upon the determination of apparent digestibility in the pig. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 57, 131135.
Montagne, L, Loisel, F, Le Naou, T, Gondret, F, Gilbert, H and Le Gall, M 2014. Difference in short-term responses to a high-fiber diet in pigs divergently selected for residual feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 92, 15121523.
Nkrumah, JD, Okine, EK, Mathison, GW, Schmid, K, Li, C, Basarab, JA, Price, MA, Wang, Z and Moore, SS 2006. Relationships of feedlot feed efficiency, performance, and feeding behavior with metabolic rate, methane production, and energy partitioning in beef cattle. Journal of Animal Science 84, 145153.
Noblet, J, Karege, C, Dubois, S and van Milgen, J 1999. Metabolic utilization of energy and maintenance requirements in growing pigs: effects of sex and genotype. Journal of Animal Science 77, 12081216.
NRC 2012. Nutrient requirements of Swine. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
O’Shea, CJ, Sweeney, T, Bahar, B, Ryan, MT, Thornton, K and O’Doherty, JV 2012. Indices of gastrointestinal fermentation and manure emissions of growing-finishing pigs as influenced through singular or combined consumption of Lactobacillus plantarum and inulin. Journal of Animal Science 90, 38483857.
Peng, L, He, Z, Chen, W, Holzman, IR and Lin, J 2007. Effects of butyrate on intestinal barrier function in a Caco-2 cell monolayer model of intestinal barrier. Pediatric Research 61, 3741.
Rakhshandeh, A, Dekkers, JC, Kerr, BJ, Weber, TE, English, J and Gabler, NK 2012. Effect of immune system stimulation and divergent selection for residual feed intake on digestive capacity of the small intestine in growing pigs. Journal of Animal Science 90 (suppl.), 233235.
Richardson, E, Herd, R, Archer, J and Arthur, P 2004. Metabolic differences in Angus steers divergently selected for residual feed intake. Animal Production Science 44, 441452.
Saintilan, R, Mérour, I, Brossard, L, Tribout, T, Dourmad, JY, Sellier, P, Bidanel, J, van Milgen, J and Gilbert, H 2013. Genetics of residual feed intake in growing pigs: relationships with production traits, and nitrogen and phosphorus excretion traits. Journal of Animal Science 91, 25422554.
Stewart, CS 1997. Microorganisms in hindgut fermentors. Gastrointestinal Microbiology 2, 142186.
Varley, PF, Flynn, B, Callan, JJ and O’Doherty, JV 2011. Effect of phytase level in a low phosphorus diet on performance and bone development in weaner pigs and the subsequent effect on finisher pig bone development. Livestock Science 138, 152158.
Walsh, A, Sweeney, T, O’Shea, C, Doyle, D and O’Doherty, J 2013. Effect of dietary laminarin and fucoidan on selected microbiota, intestinal morphology and immune status of the newly weaned pig. British Journal of Nutrition 110, 16301638.
Young, JM, Cai, W and Dekkers, JCM 2011. Effect of selection for residual feed intake on feeding behavior and daily feed intake patterns in Yorkshire swine. Journal of Animal Science 89, 639647.
Young, JM and Dekkers, JCM 2012. The genetic and biological basis of residual feed intake as a measure of feed efficiency. In Feed efficiency in swine (ed. J Patience), pp. 153166. Wageningen Academic Publishers, the Netherlands.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Vigors supplementary material
Tables S1-S6

 Word (34 KB)
34 KB

Pigs that are divergent in feed efficiency, differ in intestinal enzyme and nutrient transporter gene expression, nutrient digestibility and microbial activity

  • S. Vigors (a1), T. Sweeney (a2), C. J. O’Shea (a3), A. K. Kelly (a1) and J. V. O’Doherty (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.