Amino Acids

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 21–30 | Cite as

Low-protein diets affect ileal amino acid digestibility and gene expression of digestive enzymes in growing and finishing pigs

  • Liuqin He
  • Li Wu
  • Zhiqi Xu
  • Tiejun Li
  • Kang Yao
  • Zhijie Cui
  • Yulong Yin
  • Guoyao Wu
Original Article


The objective of this study was to evaluate effects of dietary crude protein (CP) intake on ileal amino acid digestibilities and expression of genes for digestive enzymes in growing and finishing pigs. In Experiment 1, 18 growing pigs (average initial BW = 36.5 kg) were assigned randomly into one of three treatments (n = 6/treatment group) representing normal (18 % CP), low (15 % CP), and very low (12 % CP) protein intake. In Experiment 2, 18 finishing pigs (average initial BW = 62.3 kg) were allotted randomly into one of three treatments (n = 6/treatment group), representing normal (16 % CP), low (13 % CP) and very low (10 % CP) protein intake. In both experiments, diets with low and very low CP were supplemented with crystalline amino acids to achieve equal content of standardized ileal digestible Lys, Met, Thr, and Trp, and were provided to pigs ad libitum. Daily feed intake, BW, and feed/gain ratios were determined. At the end of each experiment, all pigs were slaughtered to collect pancreas, small-intestine samples, and terminal ileal chymes. Samples were used for determining expression of genes for digestive enzymes and ileal amino acid digestibilities. Growing pigs fed the 12 % CP and 15 % CP diets had lower final body weight (P < 0.01) and ADG (P < 0.0001) when compared with pigs fed the 18 % dietary CP diet. Growing pigs fed with the 12 % CP diet showed higher digestibilities for CP (P < 0.05), DM (P < 0.05), Lys (P < 0.0001), Met (P < 0.01), Cys (P < 0.01), Thr (P < 0.01), Trp (P < 0.05), Val (P < 0.05), Phe (P < 0.05), Ala (P < 0.05), Cys (P < 0.01), and Gly (P < 0.05) than those fed the 18 % CP diet. Finishing pigs fed the 16 % CP diet had a higher (P < 0.01) final body weight than those fed the 10 % CP diet. mRNA levels for digestive enzymes (trypsinogen, chymotrypsin B, and dipeptidases-II and III) differed among the three groups of pigs (P < 0.05), and no difference was noted in the genes expression between control group and lower CP group. These results indicated that a reduction of dietary CP by a six-percentage value limited the growth performance of growing–finishing pigs and that a low-protein diet supplemented with deficient amino acids could reduce the excretion of nitrogen into the environment without affecting weight gain.


Low nitrogen Crude protein Amino acid Digestive enzyme Pig 



Amino acids


Body weight


Crude protein


Digestible energy



This work was supported by National Basic Research Program of China (2013CB127301, 2013CB127306), National Scientific and Technology Support Project (2013BAD21B04), the Chinese Academy of Sciences through its Hundred Talent Program to Kan Yao, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research (H-8200).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Agroecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Scientific Observing and Experimental Station of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science in South-Central, Ministry of Agriculture, Hunan Provincial Engineering Research Center of Healthy Livestock and Poultry, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina
  2. 2.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Software DepartmentNanchang Hangkong UniversityNanchangChina
  4. 4.Department of Animal ScienceTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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