1.Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) exert beneficial actions in the gut; nevertheless, information about the effect of SCFA on physiological responses in the small intestine of chickens is rare.2.The aim of this study was to assess the effect of 1) different molar acetate:butyrate ratios (Ac:But; Experiment 1; 78.5% acetate and 7.3% butyrate versus 71.4% acetate and 14.0% butyrate) and 2) SCFA concentrations (Experiment 2; final concentration in chambers: 70.5 versus 141 µmol SCFA/ml buffer) on the jejunal and caecal contractibility and jejunal barrier function in laying hens. The change in muscle contractibility due to the SCFA was measured in mid-jejunal and caecal segments (n = 4 each per hen) from four laying hens using the organ bath system after precontraction with acetylcholine for 15 min. Changes in short-circuit current (ISC) and transepithelial tissue conductivity (GT) as indicators for net ion flux and barrier function, respectively, were measured in mid-jejunal tissue (n = 3/hen and treatment), mounted into Ussing chambers.In Experiment 1, the addition of SCFA, irrespective of the Ac:But ratio, decreased jejunal muscle tension (P<0.05), jejunal GT as well as caused a less negative ISC (P<0.05). In Experiment 2, the increasing SCFA concentrations increased the caecal muscle contraction and jejunal ISC by 75.6% while decreasing the GT by up to 19.6% (P<0.05).3.In conclusion, results demonstrate that increasing butyrate proportions and SCFA concentrations stimulate caecal muscle contraction, thereby increasing caecal mixing and emptying in vivo. Jejunal ISC and GT support a strong SCFA sensing capacity in the jejunum, as both, more butyrate and higher SCFA, increased mucosal ion uptake and barrier function.
Keywords: gut contractibility; ion flux; laying hens; permeability; short-chain fatty acids.