This study was conducted to investigate impacts of dietary protein levels on gut bacterial community and gut barrier. The intestinal microbiota of finishing pigs, fed with 16%, 13% and 10% crude protein (CP) in diets, respectively, were investigated using Illumina MiSeq sequencing. The ileal bacterial richness tended to decrease when the dietary protein concentration reduced from 16% to 10%. The proportion of Clostridium_sensu_stricto_1 in ileum significantly decreased, whereas Escherichia-Shigella increased with reduction of protein concentration. In colon, the proportion of Clostridium_sensu_stricto_1 and Turicibacter increased, while the proportion of RC9_gut_group significantly decreased with the dietary protein reduction. Notably, the proportion of Peptostreptococcaceae was higher in both ileum and colon of 13% CP group. As for metabolites, the intestinal concentrations of SCFAs and biogenic amines decreased with the dietary protein reduction. The 10% CP dietary treatment damaged ileal mucosal morphology, and decreased the expression of biomarks of intestinal cells (Lgr5 and Bmi1), whereas the expression of tight junction proteins (occludin and claudin) in 13% CP group were higher than the other two groups. In conclusion, moderate dietary protein restriction (13% CP) could alter the bacterial community and metabolites, promote colonization of beneficial bacteria in both ileum and colon, and improve gut barrier function.
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