Nonprotein Nitrogen Is Absorbed from the Large Intestine and Increases Nitrogen Balance in Growing Pigs Fed a Valine-Limiting Diet1-3

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Nitrogen absorption from the large intestine, largely as ammonia and possibly as amino acids (AAs), is generally thought to be of little nutritional value to nonruminant animals and humans. Ammonia-nitrogen absorbed from the large intestine, however, may be recycled into the small intestine as urea and incorporated into microbial AAs, which may then be used by the host. A cecal infusion study was performed to determine the form in which nitrogen is absorbed from the large intestine and the impact of large intestine nitrogen supply on nitrogen balance in growing pigs. Eighteen cecally cannulated barrows (initial body weight: 22.4 ± 1.2 kg) were used to determine the effect of supplying nitrogen into the large intestine from either casein or urea on whole-body nitrogen retention and urea kinetics. Treatments were cecal infusions of saline (control), casein, or urea with nitrogen infused at a rate of 40% of nitrogen intake. In a subsample of 9 pigs, 15N15N-urea was infused via i.v. during the nitrogen-balance period to determine urea kinetics. All pigs were fed a valine-limiting cornstarch-soybean meal-based diet. More than 80% of infused nitrogen was apparently absorbed. Urea flux and urinary nitrogen excretion increased (P ≤ 0.05) by the same amount for both nitrogen sources, but this increase did not fully account for the increase in nitrogen absorption from the large intestine. Whole-body nitrogen retention improved with nitrogen infusions (129 vs. 114 g/d; P < 0.01) and did not differ (P > 0.05) between nitrogen sources. Absorption of nitrogen from the large intestine appears to be in the form of nonprotein nitrogen, which appears to be returned to the small intestine via urea and used there for microbial AA production and should therefore be considered when determining nitrogen and AA supply and requirements. J. Nutr. 144: 614-620, 2014.

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