Heat stress reduces barrier function and alters intestinal metabolism in growing pigs

S. C. Pearce, V. Mani, R. L. Boddicker, J. S. Johnson, T. E. Weber, J. W. Ross, L. H. Baumgard, N. K. Gabler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


High ambient temperature exposure can cause major reductions in intestinal function, pig performance, and, if severe enough, mortality. Therefore, our objective was to examine how acute heat stress (HS) alters growing pig intestinal integrity and metabolism. Individually penned crossbred gilts and barrows (46 ± 6 kg BW) were exposed to either thermal neutral (TN; 21°C; 35 to 50% humidity; n = 8) or HS conditions (35°C; 24 to 43% humidity; n = 8) for 24 h. All pigs had ad libitum access to feed and water. Rectal temperature (Tr), respiration rates (RR), BW, and feed intake (FI) were measured. Pigs were killed after 24 h of environmental exposure and freshly isolated ileum and colon samples were mounted into modified Ussing chambers. Segments were analyzed for glucose and glutamine nutrient transport and barrier integrity [transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) and fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled dextran transport]. As expected, pigs exposed to HS had an increase in Tr (39.3 vs. 40.9°C; P < 0.01) and RR (52 vs. 119 breaths per minute; P < 0.05). Heat stress decreased fi(53%; P < 0.05) and BW (-2.2 kg; P < 0.05) compared to TN pigs. Compared to TN pigs, mucosal heat shock protein 70 increased (101%; P < 0.05) whereas intestinal integrity was compromised in the HS pigs (ileum and colon TER decreased 52 and 24%, respectively; P < 0.05). Furthermore, serum endotoxin concentrations increased 200% due to HS (P = 0.05). Intestinal glucose transport and blood glucose were elevated due to HS (P < 0.05). However, ileal sucrase and maltase activities decreased in HS pigs (30 and 24%, respectively; P < 0.05). Altogether, these data indicate that high ambient heat loads reduce intestinal integrity and increase circulating endotoxin and stress in pigs. Furthermore, glucose transport and digestive capacity are altered during acute HS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-259
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue numberSUPPL4
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Barrier function
  • Heat stress
  • Intestine
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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