Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 13, pp 5415–5426 | Cite as

Progressive response of large intestinal bacterial community and fermentation to the stepwise decrease of dietary crude protein level in growing pigs

  • Yu Peng
  • Kaifan Yu
  • Chunlong Mu
  • Suqin Hang
  • Lianqiang Che
  • Weiyun ZhuEmail author
Applied microbial and cell physiology


The study aimed to determine the effects of reduction of dietary crude protein (CP) level with balanced essential amino acids (EAA) on intestinal bacteria and their metabolites of growing pigs. Forty pigs (initial BW 13.50 ± 0.50 kg, 45 ± 2 days of age) were randomly assigned to four dietary treatments containing CP levels at 20.00% (normal crude protein, NP); 17.16% (medium crude protein, MP); 15.30% (low crude protein, LP); and 13.90% (extremely low crude protein, ELP), respectively. Crystalline AAs were added to meet the EAA requirement of pigs. After 4-week feeding, eight pigs per treatment (n = 8) were randomly selected and slaughtered for sampling of ileal, cecal, and colonic digesta and mucosa. Pigs with moderately reduced CP level had increased bacterial diversity, with the Shannon diversity indices for the colon digesta in the LP group and mucosa in the MP and LP groups significantly (P < 0.05) higher than those in the NP and ELP groups. As the CP level reduces, the Bifidobacterium population were linearly decreased (P < 0.05) both in ileum, cecum, and colon, and the ELP group had the lowest Bifidobacterium population in the cecum and colon, with its value significantly lower than NP and MP groups (P < 0.05). However, the ELP group had the highest population of Escherichia coli in the colon, with its value significantly higher than the LP group (P < 0.05). For bacterial metabolites, as CP level decreased, total short-chain fatty acid (T-SCFA), acetate, and butyrate were linearly increased (linear, P < 0.05) in the ileum, while all SCFAs except formate in the cecum and T-SCFA and acetate in the colon, were linearly decreased (P < 0.05). Reducing CP level led to a linear decrease of microbial crude protein (MCP) in the ileum (P < 0.05) and ammonia in all intestine segments (P < 0.05). The spermidine in cecum and total amines, cadaverine, methylamine, and spermidine in colon were shown a quadratic change (P < 0.05) as dietary CP decreases, with the highest concentration in LP group. These findings suggest that moderate reduction of dietary CP level may benefit large intestinal bacterial community and its fermentation, which was negatively affected by extremely low CP diet.


Low-protein diets Crude protein level Intestinal microbiota Microbial metabolites 


Compliance with ethical standards


This study was supported by National Key Basic Research Program of China, 973 program (Beijing, grant no. 2013CB127300), Natural Science Foundation of China (31430082). W. Zhu also thanks Jiangsu Collaboration Innovation Center of Meat Production and Processing, Quality and Safety Control for support.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

253_2017_8285_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (209 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 209 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu Peng
    • 1
  • Kaifan Yu
    • 1
  • Chunlong Mu
    • 1
  • Suqin Hang
    • 1
  • Lianqiang Che
    • 2
  • Weiyun Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Gastrointestinal Nutrition and Animal Health, Laboratory of Gastrointestinal Microbiology, College of Animal Science and TechnologyNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Animal Disease-Resistant Nutrition of the Ministry of Education of China, Institute of Animal NutritionSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China

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