Dietary sophorolipid accelerates growth by modulation of gut microbiota population and intestinal environments in broiler chickens

Min Jin Kwak, Min Young Park, Yong Soon Choi, Junghwan Cho, Duleepa Pathiraja, Jonggun Kim, Hanbae Lee, In Geol Choi, Kwang Youn Whang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Gut is a crucial organ for the host’s defense system due to its filtering action of the intestinal membrane from hazardous foreign substances. One strategy to strengthen the gut epithelial barrier function is to upregulate beneficial microflora populations and their metabolites. Sophorolipid (SPL), which is a glycolipid bio-surfactant, could increase beneficial microflora and decrease pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, herein, we conducted an experiment with broiler chickens to investigate the fortifying effects of SPL on the host’s gut defense system by modulating the microbiota population. Methods: A total of 540 1-day-old chicks (Ross 308) were used, and they were immediately allotted into three treatment groups (6 replications with 30 chicks/pen) according to their initial body weight. The dietary treatments consisted of CON (basal diet), BAM (10 mg/kg bambermycin), and SPL (10 mg/kg SPL). During the experiment, birds freely accessed feed and water, and body weight and feed intake were measured at the end of each phase. On d 35, birds (one bird/pen) were sacrificed to collect jejunum and cecum samples. Results: Dietary SPL and BAM supplementation significantly accelerated birds’ growth and also significantly improved feed efficiency compared to CON. Intestinal microbial community was significantly separated by dietary SPL supplementation from that of CON, and dietary SPL supplementation significantly increased Lactobacillus spp. and Akkermansia muciniphila. Moreover, birds fed with dietary SPL also showed the highest concentration of cecal butyrate among all treatment groups. Gut morphological analysis showed that dietary SPL significantly increased villus height, ratio of villus height to crypt depth, goblet cell numbers, and the gene expression levels of claudin-1 and mucin 2. Additionally, dietary SPL significantly decreased the mRNA expression level of pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-6, and increased that of anti-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-10, compared to other treatments. Conclusions: Dietary SPL increases the beneficial bacterial population and butyrate concentration, which leads to a strengthened gut barrier function. In addition, the intestinal inflammation was also downregulated by dietary SPL supplementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
JournalJournal of Animal Science and Biotechnology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by EASYBIO Inc. and Korea University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Broilers
  • Gut microbiota
  • Gut morphology
  • Local inflammation
  • Mucus barrier
  • Sophorolipids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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