Open Access Research article

Protective effects of N-acetylcysteine on acetic acid-induced colitis in a porcine model

Qingjing Wang1, Yongqing Hou1*, Dan Yi1, Lei Wang1, Binying Ding1, Xing Chen1, Minhui Long1, Yulan Liu1 and Guoyao Wu23

Author Affiliations

1 Hubei Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science, Wuhan Polytechnic University, Wuhan 430023, China

2 Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

3 State Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China

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BMC Gastroenterology 2013, 13:133  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-13-133

Published: 30 August 2013



Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease and involves multiple etiological factors. Acetic acid (AA)-induced colitis is a reproducible and simple model, sharing many characteristics with human colitis. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been widely used as an antioxidant in vivo and in vitro. NAC can affect several signaling pathways involving in apoptosis, angiogenesis, cell growth and arrest, redox-regulated gene expression, and inflammatory response. Therefore, NAC may not only protect against the direct injurious effects of oxidants, but also beneficially alter inflammatory events in colitis. This study was conducted to investigate whether NAC could alleviate the AA-induced colitis in a porcine model.


Weaned piglets were used to investigate the effects of NAC on AA-induced colitis. Severity of colitis was evaluated by colon histomorphology measurements, histopathology scores, tissue myeloperoxidase activity, as well as concentrations of malondialdehyde and pro-inflammatory mediators in the plasma and colon. The protective role of NAC was assessed by measurements of antioxidant status, growth modulator, cell apoptosis, and tight junction proteins. Abundances of caspase-3 and claudin-1 proteins in colonic mucosae were determined by the Western blot method. Epidermal growth factor receptor, amphiregulin, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) mRNA levels in colonic mucosae were quantified using the real-time fluorescent quantitative PCR.


Compared with the control group, AA treatment increased (P < 0.05) the histopathology scores, intraepithelial lymphocyte (IEL) numbers and density in the colon, myeloperoxidase activity, the concentrations of malondialdehyde and pro-inflammatory mediators in the plasma and colon, while reducing (P < 0.05) goblet cell numbers and the protein/DNA ratio in the colonic mucosa. These adverse effects of AA were partially ameliorated (P < 0.05) by dietary supplementation with NAC. In addition, NAC prevented the AA-induced increase in caspase-3 protein, while stimulating claudin-1 protein expression in the colonic mucosa. Moreover, NAC enhanced mRNA levels for epidermal growth factor and amphiregulin in the colonic mucosa.


Dietary supplementation with NAC can alleviate AA-induced colitis in a porcine model through regulating anti-oxidative responses, cell apoptosis, and EGF gene expression.

N-acetylcysteine; Acetic acid; Colon injury; Claudin-1; Epidermal growth factor; Amphiregulin