Short-Term Subclinical Zinc Deficiency in Weaned Piglets Affects Cardiac Redox Metabolism and Zinc Concentration

J Nutr. 2017 Apr;147(4):521-527. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.240804. Epub 2017 Feb 15.


Background: Subclinical zinc deficiency (SZD) represents the common zinc malnutrition phenotype. However, its association with oxidative stress is not well understood. The heart muscle may be a promising target for studying early changes in redox metabolism.Objective: We investigated the effects of short-term SZD on cardiac redox metabolism in weaned piglets.Methods: Forty-eight weaned German Large White × Landrace × Piétrain piglets (50% castrated males and 50% females; body weight of 8.5 kg) were fed diets with different zinc concentrations for 8 d. Measurements included cardiac parameters of antioxidative capacity, stress-associated gene expression, and tissue zinc status. Analyses comprised (linear, broken-line) regression models and Pearson correlation coefficients.Results: Glutathione and α-tocopherol concentrations as well as catalase, glutathione reductase, B-cell lymphoma 2-associated X protein, and caspase 9 gene expression plateaued in response to reduction in dietary zinc from 88.0 to 57.6, 36.0, 36.5, 41.3, 55.3, and 33.8 mg/kg, respectively (P < 0.0001). Further reduction in dietary zinc promoted a linear decrease of glutathione and α-tocopherol (30 and 0.6 nmol/mg dietary Zn, respectively; P < 0.05) and a linear increase of gene expression [0.02, 0.01, 0.003, and 0.02 Log10(2-ΔΔCt)/mg dietary Zn, respectively; P < 0.05)]. Tissue zinc declined linearly with reduction in dietary zinc (0.21 mg tissue Zn/mg dietary Zn; P = 0.004) from 88.0 to 42.7 mg/kg (P < 0.0001), below which it linearly increased inversely to further reduction in dietary zinc (0.57 mg tissue Zn/mg dietary Zn; P = 0.006). H2O2-detoxification activity and metallothionein 1A gene expression decreased linearly with reduction in dietary zinc from 88.0 to 28.1 mg/kg [0.02 mU and 0.008 Log10(2-ΔΔCt)/mg dietary Zn, respectively; P < 0.05]. Fas cell-surface death receptor, etoposide-induced 2.4 and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A gene expression correlated positively to cardiac zinc in piglets fed ≤42.7 mg Zn/kg (r ≥ 0.97; P < 0.05).Conclusions: Short-term SZD decreased cardiac antioxidative capacity of weaned piglets while simultaneously increasing stress-associated gene expression and zinc concentration. This is the first report to our knowledge on the effects of SZD on redox metabolism.

Keywords: gene expression; heart muscle; oxidative stress; pig; zinc deficiency.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Deficiency Diseases / metabolism
  • Deficiency Diseases / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Male
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Swine*
  • Zinc / chemistry
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Zinc