Prebiotics and Bioactive Milk Fractions Affect Gut Development, Microbiota, and Neurotransmitter Expression in Piglets

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016 Dec;63(6):688-697. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001200.


Objective: This study tested the hypothesis that the addition of prebiotics and 2 functional milk ingredients to infant formula would maintain normal growth and gut development, and modify microbiota composition and neurotransmitter gene expression in neonatal piglets.

Methods: Two-day-old male piglets (n = 24) were fed formula (CONT) or formula with polydextrose (1.2 g/100 g diet), galactooligosaccharides (3.5 g/100 g diet), bovine lactoferrin (0.3 g/100 g diet), and milk fat globule membrane-10 (2.5 g/100 g diet) (TEST) for 30 days. On study day 31, intestinal samples, ileal and colonic contents, and feces were collected. Intestinal histomorphology, disaccharidase activity, serotonin (5'HT), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) were measured. Gut microbiota composition was assessed by pyrosequencing of the V3-V5 regions of 16S rRNA and quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Body weight of piglets on TEST was greater (P ≤ 0.05) than CONT on days 17 to 30. Both groups displayed growth patterns within the range observed for sow-reared pigs. TEST piglets had greater jejunal lactase (P = 0.03) and higher (P = 0.003) ileal VIP expression. TEST piglets tended to have greater (P = 0.09) sucrase activity, longer (P = 0.08) ileal villi, and greater (P = 0.06) duodenal TH expression. Microbial communities of TEST piglets differed from CONT in ascending colon (AC, P = 0.001) and feces (P ≤ 0.05). CONT piglets had greater relative abundances of Mogibacterium, Collinsella, Klebsiella, Escherichia/Shigella, Eubacterium, and Roseburia compared with TEST piglets in AC. In feces, CONT piglets harbored lower (P ≤ 0.05) proportions of Parabacteroides, Clostridium IV, Lutispora, and Sutterella than TEST piglets.

Conclusions: A mixture of bioactive ingredients improved weight gain and gut maturation, modulated colonic and fecal microbial composition, and reduced the proportions of opportunistic pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / enzymology
  • Male
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Prebiotics / microbiology*
  • Swine


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Prebiotics