Dietary pea fibre alters the microbial community and fermentation with increase in fibre degradation‐associated bacterial groups in the colon of pigs

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The hindgut of humans and monogastric animals harbours many thousands of microbial species (Arumugam et al., 2011; Kim & Isaacson, 2015), thus being considered as another “organ” of the animal body (O'Hara & Shanahan, 2006; Thompson, 2016). Diet is generally regarded as one of the important factors influencing composition of gut microbes, as shift of dietary components can lead to quick changes in the composition of microbiota (Flint, Scott, Duncan, Louis, & Forano, 2012a; Graf et al., 2015). Of the components, dietary fibres are proven to have significant impact on the composition of intestinal microbiota (Sawicki et al., 2015). Most of the beneficial effects of dietary fibres are associated with bacterial fermentation (Lattimer & Haub, 2010; Verbeke et al., 2015). However, the physiological benefits of dietary fibres depend largely on some additional properties of fibres, such as types and structure, viscosity and fermentability (Slavin, Savarino, Paredes‐Diaz, & Fotopoulos, 2009). Therefore, a better understanding of the interaction between different dietary fibres and intestinal microbiota in the hindgut may provide a means of modulating microbiota in cases of dysbiosis of animals.
Pea fibre (PF), one of the dietary fibre sources in human food, has been shown to improve human health by regulating glucose response, lipid metabolism and intestinal frequency (Anderson & Berry, 2001; Dahl, Whiting, Healey, Zello, & Hildebrandt, 2003; Lambert et al., 2016). So far, few studies focused on the effects of PF on composition and metabolism of intestinal microbes. There are up to 1,000 different microbial species that reside in the colon with the communities comprising approximately 1011–1012 cells/g of contents (Gibson et al., 2010). Such large population of colonic microbiota could degrade dietary fibres that escape the digestion in the small intestine and largely remain intact passing into the colon where they could increase viscosity and bulking of faecal masses (Dai & Chau, 2016; El Aidy et al., 2013; Lattimer & Haub, 2010).
In our previous short‐term study in weaned piglet model, we found that PF increased colonic barrier‐related factors and beneficial bacteria population (Chen et al., 2013). Further study indicated that long‐term supplementation of PF, from weaning to day 160 post‐weaning, increased colonic barrier‐related expression of mucin and sIgA. Moreover, some bacterial species, such as Lactobacillus group, were also increased by PF supplementation (Che et al., 2014). Thus, we assume that PF might have extensive impact on the community of colonic bacteria of pigs and/or their metabolites, such as volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Here, we investigate whether the supplementation of dietary pea fibres changes the bacterial community and VFA production in the colon of pigs at different growth stages.
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