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J Anim Sci. 2008 Sep;86(9):2135-55. doi: 10.2527/jas.2007-0826. Epub 2008 Apr 25.

Board-invited review: Peptide absorption and utilization: Implications for animal nutrition and health.

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  • 1Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061-0306, USA.


Over the last 50 yr, the study of intestinal peptide transport has rapidly evolved into a field with exciting nutritional and biomedical applications. In this review, we describe from a historical and current perspective intestinal peptide transport, the importance of peptides to whole-body nutrition, and the cloning and characterization of the intestinal peptide transporter, PepT1. We focus on the nutritional significance of peptide transport and relate these findings to livestock and poultry. Amino acids are transported into the enterocyte as free AA by a variety of AA transporters that vary in substrate specificity or as di- and tripeptides by the peptide transporter, PepT1. Expression of PepT1 is largely restricted to the small intestine in most species; however, in ruminants, peptide transport and activity is observed in the rumen and omasum. The extent to which peptides are absorbed and utilized is still unclear. In ruminants, peptides make a contribution to the portal-drained visceral flux of total AA and are detected in circulating plasma. Peptides can be utilized by the mammary gland for milk protein synthesis and by a variety of other tissues. We discuss the factors known to regulate expression of PepT1 including development, diet, hormones, diurnal rhythm, and disease. Expression of PepT1 is detected during embryological stages in both birds and mammals and increases with age, a strategic event that allows for the immediate uptake of nutrients after hatch or birth. Both increasing levels of protein in the diet and dietary protein deficiencies are found to upregulate the peptide transporter. We also include in this review a discussion of the use of dietary peptides and potential alternate routes of nutrient delivery to the cell. Our goal is to impart to the reader the nutritional implications of peptide transport and dietary peptides and share discoveries that shed light on various biological processes, including rapid establishment of intestinal function in early neonates and maintenance of intestinal function during fasting, starvation, and disease states.

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