Low-calcium diets increase duodenal mRNA expression of calcium and phosphorus transporters and claudins but compromise growth performance irrespective of microbial phytase inclusion in broilers

Hu, Y.X.; Harn, J. van; Hendriks, W.H.; Baal, J. van; Dijkslag, M.A.; Krimpen, M.M. van; Bikker, P.


The hypothesis that dietary inclusion of microbial phytase improves apparent calcium (Ca) digestibility thereby allowing a lower dietary Ca inclusion without compromising growth performance was tested. One-day-old male Ross 308 broilers (25 birds/pen, 9 pens/treatment) were assigned to 8 experimental diets containing one of 4 dietary Ca to retainable P (rP) ratios (1.3, 1.8, 2.3, and 2.8) with (1,000 FTU/kg) or without microbial phytase. On d 21 to 23, digesta from different intestinal segments of 8 birds per pen were collected to determine apparent Ca and P digestibility. Mid duodenal mucosa was collected for expression of Ca (CaBP-D28k, PMCA1) and P (NaPi-IIb, PiT-1, PiT-2, and XPR1) transporters by RT-qPCR. Dietary phytase inclusion in low Ca/rP diets increased Ca digestibility in the distal ileum (Pinteraction = 0.023) but not the proximal or distal jejunum. Broilers receiving the lowest Ca/rP displayed the lowest body weight gain, highest feed conversion ratio (P < 0.001), and lowest tibia strength, irrespective of dietary phytase inclusion. Incremental dietary Ca/rP linearly reduced P digestibility to a greater extent in the absence of phytase in the distal jejunum and ileum (Pinteraction = 0.021 and 0.001, respectively). Incremental dietary Ca/rP linearly reduced serum P more in phytase-free diets (Pinteraction < 0.001), and lowered duodenal expression of P transporters NaPi-IIb, PiT-2, and XPR1 (P = 0.052, 0.071 and 0.028, respectively). Incremental dietary Ca/rP linearly increased (P < 0.001) serum Ca irrespective of phytase inclusion, accompanied by a lower (P < 0.001) duodenal expression of Ca transporters CaSR, CaBP-D28k and PMCA1 and Ca-pore forming claudins CLDN-2 and CLDN-12. Dietary phytase increased (P = 0.026) NaPi-IIb but reduced (P = 0.029) CLDN-2 expression. Incremental Ca/rP reduced Ca and P digestibility, increased serum Ca, lowered serum P and inhibited mRNA levels of Ca and P-related transporters, indicating that these transporters and CLDN contribute to the observed effect of dietary Ca and phytase on Ca and P absorption. Despite the improvement in Ca digestibility, dietary phytase did not restore the compromised growth performance and tibia strength of broilers fed a Ca-deficient diet, leading to rejection of the hypothesis.