Differences in intestinal mucin dynamics between germ-free and conventionally reared chickens after mannan-oligosaccharide supplementation

S. L. Cheled-Shoval, N. S.Withana Gamage, E. Amit-Romach, R. Forder, J. Marshal, A. Van Kessel, Z. Uni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


A germ-free (GF) chicken model was used to test 2 hypotheses: 1. microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) influences mucin gene expression and mucin types; and 2. mannan oligosaccharide (MOS) supplementation affects GIT cells directly, without bacteria mediation, compared with bacterialmediated effect (i.e., indirectly). Gnotobiotic isolators were used: 1) GF, 2) with a single bacteria population, and 3) conventionalized by exposure to cecal bacterial contents. Each was divided to 2 diet groups: with or without MOS (2 kg/t) for 1 wk. Results show that the absence of bacteria in the GIT caused a reduction in neutral and acidic goblet cell (GC) number and density, an increase in sulfated mucin, absence of sialylated GC, and reduced mucin 2 mRNA expression in the small intestine of GF compared with conventional birds. These results indicate a reduced development of mucin production and secretion in the absence of GIT bacteria implying a less mature small intestine mucosa, supporting our first hypothesis. Results from the single bacteria population group were not conclusive and did not support any of the hypotheses. Supplementation of MOS, regardless of microbial presence, caused a reduction in neutral GC number and density but increased neutral GC area. The MOS caused different effects onacidic mucins in conventional and GF birds, causing areduction in sialylated GC number (conventional) and a reduction in sulfated GC density (GF), all supporting a direct effect of MOS in GF animals, in addition to an indirect effect via gut microflora.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)636-644
Number of pages9
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Alltech Inc. USA (Lexington, KY); research NO. 08-S-1912A.


  • Gene expression
  • Germ-free chicken
  • Mannan oligosaccharide
  • Mucin dynamics


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