Ruminal wall metabolism was studied in nonlactating heifers by altering the carbohydrate (CHO) digestion site between rumen and intestine. The CHO digestion site was estimated from in situ and total-tract digestibility of control (CONT) diets and diets supplemented with corn (CRN), barley (BARL), or soy hulls (SOYH). Ruminal epithelial metabolism regulating gene expression, morphology, and nutrient delivery was assessed from a combination of rumen volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentration, biopsies for papilla morphology, and expression of putative metabolic regulatory genes encoding enzymes that facilitate VFA utilization. Digestible dry matter and CHO intake were 25 and 45% higher, respectively, in the supplemented diets than in CONT diets. Fiber supplementation increased the intestinal and decreased ruminal CHO digestion. Ruminal nonfiber CHO digestibility was 10% lower in CRN than with the high rumen-degradable supplement. The CONT heifers had lowest total ruminal VFA and highest acetate concentration relative to the other treatments. Total VFA concentration in BARL and CRN diets tended to be higher than in SOYH. The SOYH diet tended to reduce papilla dimension relative to CRN and BARL. The CRN diet tended to increase papilla surface area relative to BARL and SOYH. Gene expression of propionyl-coenzyme A carboxylase was higher in CRN and BARL than in SOYH diets, and tended to be higher in CRN than in BARL and SOYH diets. Lactate dehydrogenase and butyryl coenzyme A synthase gene transcripts tended to be higher in CONT than in the supplemented treatments. Thus, rumen epithelial expression of genes involved in VFA metabolism and ruminal wall-structure development are influenced by other regulatory mechanism that is not directly affected by local signals. The in situ methods used are a useful tool for differentiating ruminal from extraruminal nutrient supply.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by the Israeli Cattle Breeders’ Association (Caesarea, Israel).
- Rumen epithelial metabolism
- Volatile fatty acid