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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):G173-81. Epub 2006 Aug 10.

Stress signaling pathways activated by weaning mediate intestinal dysfunction in the pig.

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Center for Comparative Translational and Molecular Research, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA.


Weaning in the piglet is a stressful event associated with gastrointestinal disorders and increased disease susceptibility. Although stress is thought to play a role in postweaning intestinal disease, the mechanisms by which stress influences intestinal pathophysiology in the weaned pig are not understood. The objectives of these experiments were to investigate the impact of weaning on gastrointestinal health in the pig and to assess the role of stress signaling pathways in this response. Nineteen-day-old pigs were weaned, and mucosal barrier function and ion transport were assessed in jejunal and colonic tissues mounted on Ussing chambers. Weaning caused marked disturbances in intestinal barrier function, as demonstrated by significant (P < 0.01) reductions in transepithelial electrical resistance and increases in intestinal permeability to [3H]mannitol in both the jejunum and colon compared with intestinal tissues from age-matched, unweaned control pigs. Weaned intestinal tissues exhibited increased intestinal secretory activity, as demonstrated by elevated short-circuit current that was sensitive to treatment with tetrodotoxin and indomethacin, suggesting activation of enteric neural and prostaglandin synthesis pathways in weaned intestinal tissues. Western blot analyses of mucosal homogenates showed increased expression of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) receptor 1 in the jejunum and colon of weaned intestinal tissues. Pretreatment of pigs with the CRF receptor antagonist alpha-helical CRF(9-41), which was injected intraperitoneally 30 min prior to weaning, abolished the stress-induced mucosal changes. Our results indicate that weaning stress induces mucosal dysfunction mediated by intestinal CRF receptors and activated by enteric nerves and prostanoid pathways.

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