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Effect of lactation on the decline of brush border lactase activity in neonatal pigs.
  1. D Kelly,
  2. T P King,
  3. M McFadyen,
  4. A J Travis
  1. Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, Scotland.


    It has been shown that during the early phase of lactation porcine milk contains high concentrations of hormones and growth factors. The aim of the present investigation was to examine the hypothesis that the temporal coordination of intestinal maturation in piglets can be extrinsically regulated through changes in the composition of milk during the suckling period. Gut morphology and the ontogeny of brush border lactase activity were investigated in piglets reared on two suckling regimens designed to expose the animals to compositionally distinct milk. The first group of animals were cross-fostered onto postcolostrum sows and thereafter suckled normally for up to eight weeks. These normally suckled (N) animals consequently received both early and late lactation products. The second group of piglets were cross-fostered each week, for up to eight weeks, onto newly farrowed sows which were postcolostrum. As a result of this repeated cross-fostering (CF) these animals received only early lactation products. Animals were sacrificed at one, three, five, seven, and eight weeks postpartum. Biochemically active lactase decreased significantly (p less than 0.001) in both groups over eight weeks, but the rate of loss of activity was greater in the CF animals than in the N pigs by approximately 50% at week 3 and 25% at week 8. Quantitative histochemical analysis of lactase activity corroborated the biochemical data. At three weeks maximal enzyme activity was observed approximately 400 microns from the villus/crypt junction. Histochemically detected lactase decreased throughout the suckling period, but the intensity of reaction product was consistently weaker over the entire villus surface in the CF animals. Immunocytochemically detectable lactase was identified at the same sites as the histochemical reaction products. In addition, immunofluorescence microscopy showed the presence of histochemically undetectable enzyme on the basolateral and brush border membranes of both villus and crypt cells. Villus/crypt ratios were significantly lower (p<0.001) in the CF animals than in the N pigs between weeks 3 and 5. The results of this study suggest that lactation products can accelerate the loss of brush border lactase activity. The observed decline in biochemically and histochemically detected lactase was considered to be a consequence of reduced enterocyte lifespan, decreased synthesis of enzyme protein, or altered post-translational modification of enzyme protein, or a combination of there.

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