The suckling phase is a critical period for the piglets due to their incomplete immune system development and their rapid growth rates. In this study, we analysed the metabolomic profiles of piglets over this period. Eighteen piglets (nine males and nine females) from three different litters were included in the study. Body weight was recorded at birth (T0), 12 (T1) and 21 (T2) days after birth. Plasma samples were collected at two critical time points of the suckling phase (T1 and T2) and about 180 metabolites of five different biochemical classes (glycerophospholipids, amino acids, biogenic amines, hexoses and acylcarnitines) were analyzed using a target metabolomics approach based on Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Metabolites whose levels could discriminate the plasma profiles at T1 and T2 were identified using the sparse version of Multilevel Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis (sMLPLS-DA), coupled with a stability test based on a Leave One Out (LOO) procedure. The level of twenty-three metabolites differed significantly (P < 0.1; both for stability and the effect size) between the two time points. Higher levels of six acylcarnitine (C14:1, C14:1-OH, C16-OH, C4, C5 and C5-OH), serine, threonine and tyrosine, and one phosphatidylcholine (PC ae C42:3) were observed at T1, whereas one biogenic amine (creatinine), eight phosphatidylcholines including PC aa C30:2, PC ae C30:0, PC ae C32:1, PC ae C38:4, PC ae C40:4, PC ae C42:4, PC ae C42:5 and PC ae C44:6, and four sphingomyelins, including SM (OH) C22:1, SM C16:0, SM C16:1 and SM C18:0, were more abundant at T2. The Metabolite Set Enrichment Analysis and the Pathway Analysis modules suggested a perturbation of the “glycine and serine metabolism” and the “sphingolipid metabolism”. Differences of these metabolites between these two time points might be related to the rapid growth and immunological maturation phases of the piglets in this period. Our results provided new information that could describe the biological changes of the piglets over the suckling period. The identified metabolites may be useful markers of the developmental processes occurring in the piglets over this critical pre-weaned phase.
- Growing phase