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A sulfur amino acid deficiency changes the amino acid composition of body protein in piglets

  • J. A. Conde-Aguilera (a1) (a2) (a3), R. Barea (a1) (a2), N. Le Floc’h (a1) (a2), L. Lefaucheur (a1) (a2) and J. van Milgen (a1)...


Experiments carried out to determine the amino acid requirement in growing animals are often based on the premise that the amino acid composition of body protein is constant. However, there are indications that this assumption may not be correct. The objective of this study was to test the effect of feeding piglets a diet deficient or not in total sulfur amino acids (TSAA; Met + Cys) on nitrogen retention and amino acid composition of proteins in different body compartments. Six blocks of three pigs each were used in a combined comparative slaughter and nitrogen balance study. One piglet in each block was slaughtered at 42 days of age, whereas the other piglets received a diet deficient or not in TSAA for 19 days and were slaughtered thereafter. Two diets were formulated to provide either 0.20% Met and 0.45% TSAA (on a standardized ileal digestible basis) or 0.46% Met and 0.70% TSAA. Diets were offered approximately 25% below ad libitum intake. At slaughter, the whole animal was divided into carcass, blood, intestines, liver, and the combined head, tail, feet and other organs (HFTO), which were analyzed for nitrogen and amino acid contents. Samples of the longissimus muscle (LM) were analyzed for myosin heavy chain (MyHC) and actin contents. Nitrogen retention was 20% lower in piglets receiving the TSAA-deficient diet (P < 0.01). In these piglets, the nitrogen content in tissue gain was lower in the empty body, carcass, LM and blood (P < 0.05) or tended to be lower in HFTO (P < 0.10), but was not different in the intestines and liver. The Met content in retained protein was lower in the empty body, LM and blood (P < 0.05), and tended to be lower in the carcass (P < 0.10). The Cys content was lower in LM, but higher in blood of piglets receiving the TSAA-deficient diet (P < 0.05). Skeletal muscle appeared to be affected most by the TSAA deficiency. In LM, the Met content in retained protein was reduced by 12% and total Met retention by more than 60%. The MyHC and actin contents in LM were not affected by the TSAA content of the diet. These results show that a deficient TSAA supply affects the amino acid composition of different body proteins. This questions the use of a constant ideal amino acid profile to express dietary amino acid requirements, but also illustrates the plasticity of the animal to cope with nutritional challenges.


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Supported by a research visitor grant from the Ministry of Education and Science (Spain).


Supported by a Postdoctoral/Fulbright grant from the Ministry of Education and Science (Spain). Present address: Institute of Animal Nutrition (IFNA), Estación Experimental del Zaidín (CSIC), Cno. del Jueves s/n, 18100 Armilla, Granada, Spain.



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