Open Access Open Badges Research article

Is there adaptation of the exocrine pancreas in wild animal? The case of the Roe Deer

Paul Guilloteau1*, Francesca Vitari2, Valérie Metzinger-Le Meuth3, Laurence Le Normand1, Véronique Romé1, Gérard Savary1, Luc Delaby4, Cinzia Domeneghini2 and Jean Morisset5

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, U1341, Nutrition et Adaptations Digestives, Nerveuses et Comportementales, Domaine de la Prise, 35590, Saint Gilles, France

2 Department of Veterinary Sciences and Technologies for Food Safety, University of Milan, via Trentacoste n.2, I-20134, Milan, Italy

3 Université Paris 13, UFR SMBH, 74 rue Marcel Cachin, F-93017 Bobigny, and INSERM U1088 MP3C, Rue des Louvels, F-80037, Amiens, France

4 INRA, UMR 1348, Physiologie, Environnement et Génétique pour l’Animal et les systems d’Elevage (PEGASE), Domaine de la Prise, 35590, Saint Gilles, France

5 Service de gastroentérologie, Département de Médecine, Faculté de Médecine et des Sciences de la Santé, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, J1H5N4, Canada

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BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:70  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-70

Published: 28 May 2012



Physiology of the exocrine pancreas has been well studied in domestic and in laboratory animals as well as in humans. However, it remains quite unknown in wildlife mammals. Roe deer and cattle (including calf) belong to different families but have a common ancestor. This work aimed to evaluate in the Roe deer, the adaptation to diet of the exocrine pancreatic functions and regulations related to animal evolution and domestication.


Forty bovine were distributed into 2 groups of animals either fed exclusively with a milk formula (monogastric) or fed a dry feed which allowed for rumen function to develop, they were slaughtered at 150 days of age. The 35 Roe deer were wild animals living in the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, shot during the hunting season and classified in two groups adult and young. Immediately after death, the pancreas was removed for tissue sample collection and then analyzed. When expressed in relation to body weight, pancreas, pancreatic protein weights and enzyme activities measured were higher in Roe deer than in calf. The 1st original feature is that in Roe deer, the very high content in pancreatic enzymes seems to be related to specific digestive products observed (proline-rich proteins largely secreted in saliva) which bind tannins, reducing their deleterious effects on protein digestion. The high chymotrypsin and elastase II quantities could allow recycling of proline-rich proteins. In contrast, domestication and rearing cattle resulted in simplified diet with well digestible components. The 2nd feature is that in wild animal, both receptor subtypes of the CCK/gastrin family peptides were present in the pancreas as in calf, although CCK-2 receptor subtype was previously identified in higher mammals.


Bovine species could have lost some digestive capabilities (no ingestion of great amounts of tannin-rich plants, capabilities to secrete high amounts of proline-rich proteins) compared with Roe deer species. CCK and gastrin could play an important role in the regulation of pancreatic secretion in Roe deer as in calf. This work, to the best of our knowledge is the first study which compared the Roe deer adaptation to diet with a domesticated animal largely studied.

Pancreas; Roe deer; Cattle; Exocrine secretion; CCK receptors