Performance, intestinal permeability, and gene expression of selected tight junction proteins in broiler chickens fed reduced protein diets supplemented with arginine, glutamine, and glycine subjected to a leaky gut model

Poult Sci. 2019 Dec 1;98(12):6761-6771. doi: 10.3382/ps/pez393.


Changing dietary protein and amino acids may impact intestinal barrier function. Experiments were conducted in broiler chickens to evaluate supplementation of L-glutamine, glycine, and L-arginine in a reduced protein (RP) diet. Experiment 1 examined the growth performance of broilers fed 5 dietary treatments: 1) a standard diet; 2) an RP diet (193.9 g/kg CP in grower and 176.9 g/kg CP in finisher); 3) RP diet supplemented with 10 g/kg L-Gln; 4) RP diet supplemented with 10 g/kg Gly; 5) RP diet supplemented with 5 g/kg L-Arg. Each experimental diet was replicated 6 times with 10 birds per replicate. In a subset of 96 birds, experiment 2 tested the 4 RP diets with and without dexamethasone (DEX) to induce leaky gut. Each diet was replicated 24 times. Fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran (FITC-d) was used to test intestinal permeability (IP). Gene expression of selected tight junction proteins in ileal and jejunal tissues was assayed by quantitative PCR. From day 7 to 35, the RP diet increased feed intake (FI) (P < 0.05) and body weight gain (BWG) compared with the standard diet while Gln reduced FI and BWG (P < 0.05) compared with RP. Gly had no effect on BWG or FCR. Supplementation of Arg improved FCR from day 21 to 35 and day 7 to 35. In experiment 2, Arg tended to lower FITC-d (P = 0.086). DEX increased passage of FITC-d into the serum (P < 0.001). The villi surface area was increased in birds fed higher Arg (P < 0.05). DEX and diet interacted (P < 0.01) for jejunal claudin-3 mRNA level where DEX upregulated claudin-3 for all diets except the Arg diet. In summary, with a moderate reduction of protein, satisfactory performance can be obtained. Although Gln and Gly had no demonstrable positive effect on IP and performance of broilers, increasing the dietary Arg by approximately 140% improved FCR and showed indications of improved intestinal barrier function of birds fed an RP diet under a stress model.

Keywords: dexamethasone; intestinal barrier; permeability; reduced protein; tight junctions.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Arginine / administration & dosage
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Avian Proteins / genetics
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism
  • Chickens / genetics
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted / veterinary*
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis
  • Gene Expression*
  • Glutamine / administration & dosage
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Glycine / administration & dosage
  • Glycine / metabolism*
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Tight Junction Proteins / genetics
  • Tight Junction Proteins / metabolism


  • Avian Proteins
  • Tight Junction Proteins
  • Glutamine
  • Arginine
  • Glycine