l-Threonine improves intestinal mucin synthesis and immune function of intrauterine growth-retarded weanling piglets

Nutrition. 2019 Mar;59:182-187. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.07.114. Epub 2018 Aug 22.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of dietary l-threonine supplementation on the growth performance, intestinal immune function, mucin synthesis, and goblet cell differentiation in weanling piglets with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR).

Methods: Eighteen litters of newborn piglets were selected at birth, with one normal birthweight (NBW) and two IUGR piglets in each litter. At weaning, the NBW piglet and one of the IUGR piglets were assigned to groups fed a basal diet (i.e., the NBW-CON and IUGR-CON groups). The other IUGR piglet was assigned to a group fed the basal diet supplemented with 2 g l-threonine per kg of diet (i.e., IUGR-Thr group). Therefore, all piglets were distributed across three groups for a 3-wk feeding trial.

Results: Compared with NBW, IUGR decreased growth performance, increased ileal proinflammatory cytokine levels, and reduced ileal mucin 2 (Muc2) content and goblet cell density of weanling piglets. Supplementation of l-threonine increased the feed efficiency of the IUGR-Thr group compared with the IUGR-CON group. The l-threonine-supplemented diet attenuated ileal inflammatory responses of the IUGR-Thr piglets and increased production of Muc2 and secretory immunoglobulin A and density of goblet cells. In addition, L-threonine supplementation downregulated δ-like 1 and hes family bHLH transcription factor 1, whereas growth factor independence 1 and Kruppel-like factor 4 expression levels were upregulated.

Conclusion: Dietary l-threonine supplementation attenuates inflammatory responses, facilitates Muc2 synthesis, and promotes goblet cell differentiation in the ileum of IUGR piglets.

Keywords: Goblet cells; Intestinal immune function; Intrauterine growth retardation; Mucin 2; Piglet; l-Threonine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diet therapy*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Mucins / biosynthesis*
  • Swine
  • Threonine / pharmacology*
  • Weaning


  • Mucins
  • Threonine