Effect of feeding soybean meal and differently processed peas on intestinal morphology and functional glucose transport in the small intestine of broilers

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Peas are locally grown legumes being rich in protein and starch. However, the broad usage of peas as a feed component in poultry nutrition is limited to anti-nutritional factors, which might impair gut morphology and function. This study investigated the effect of feeding raw or differently processed peas compared with feeding a soybean meal-based control diet (C) on intestinal morphology and nutrient transport in broilers. A total of 360 day-old broiler chicks were fed with one of the following diets: The C diet, and 3 diets containing raw peas (RP), fermented peas (FP) and enzymatically pre-digested peas (EP), each supplying 30% of dietary crude protein. After 35 d, jejunal samples of broilers were taken for analyzing histomorphological parameters, active glucose transport in Ussing chambers and the expression of genes related to glucose absorption, intestinal permeability and cell maturation. Villus length (P = 0.017) and crypt depth (P = 0.009) of EP-fed broilers were shorter compared to birds received C. The villus surface area was larger in broilers fed C compared to those fed with the pea-containing feed (P = 0.005). Glucose transport was higher for broilers fed C in comparison to birds fed with the EP diet (P = 0.044). The sodium-dependent glucose co-transporter 1 (SGLT-1) expression was down-regulated in RP (P = 0.028) and FP (P = 0.015) fed broilers. Correlation analyses show that jejunal villus length negatively correlates with the previously published number of jejunal intraepithelial T cells (P = 0.014) and that jejunal glucose transport was negatively correlated with the occurrence of jejunal intraepithelial leukocytes (P = 0.041). To conclude, the feeding of raw and processed pea containing diets compared to a soybean based diet reduced the jejunal mucosal surface area of broilers, which on average was accompanied by lower glucose transport capacities. These morphological and functional alterations were associated with observed mucosal immune reactions. Further studies are required elucidating the specific components in peas provoking such effects and whether these effects have a beneficial or detrimental impact on gut function and animal health.

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