The effect of exposure to heat at 3 d of age on small intestine functionality and development was assayed by measuring villus size, proliferating enterocytes, and brush-border membrane (BBM) enzyme expression and activity. Results showed that thermal conditioning caused an immediate effect characterized by lowered triiodothyronine (T3) level, reduced feed intake, and depressed enterocyte proliferation and BBM enzyme activity. A second series of effects, observed 48 h posttreatment, was characterized by elevated T3, increased feed intake, increased enterocyte proliferation, and higher expression and activity of BBM enzymes. The association between ambient temperature, feed intake, growth rate, and plasma T3 levels was reflected in the structure and function of the intestinal tract. The results suggest that thermal conditioning at an early age influences T3 concentrations, which in turn alter the intestinal capacity to proliferate, grow, and digest nutrients. However, these experiments were not able to discriminate between effects due to feed intake and those due to thermal conditioning. The treatments modulated changes in the intestinal tract following thermal treatment.
- Small intestine
- Thermal conditioning