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Trefoil factor family peptides (TFF1-3) are expressed in the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Mucosal damage causes an increase of TFF expression, providing protective effects by promoting cell restitution and enhancing surface integrity of GI mucosa. Postweaning diarrhea in piglets represents a well established animal model for inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inadequate response to novel food antigens and mucosal inflammation. Therefore, the identification of potential regulators involved in GI development during the weaning period is of great importance. The aim of this study was to evaluate jejunal TFF expression during the postnatal period and under the influence of probiotic treatment.
Piglets were treated with the probiotic strain Enterococcus faecium NCIMB 10415 or a placebo (n=5) and weaned at 28 days of age. Jejunal tissue samples were collected from piglets sacrificed at day 7, 14, 28, 31, 35 and 56 after birth. Total RNA and protein was isolated and gene expression analyzed by real-time RT-PCR and Western Blotting.
Expression analysis indicated a low level of TFF2 during early maturation stages (d7 to d14), while increased TFF2 expression was found in postweaning piglets (d31 to d56). However, TFF2 expression remained unaffected by probiotic treatment. Weaning could as well be associated with increased mRNA levels of TFF3, while differential expression of TFF1 was not detected. Interestingly, expression of TFF2 strongly correlated with pathway-related genes, providing further functional background. These results demonstrate that weaning in piglets is associated with a distinct response of TFF expression, indicating an important role in enhancing mucosal integrity.