Arabinoxylan-oligosaccharides (AXOS) are a newly discovered class of candidate prebiotics that exert different properties depending on their structure. In this study the effects of two different structures of AXOS, namely AXOS-32-0.30 (average degree of polymerization: 32, average degree of substitution: 0.30) and AXOS-3-0.25, were investigated on growth performance, immune responses, gut microbial fermentation and gut bacterial composition of juvenile Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii). After a two weeks acclimation, fish (25.9 ± 0.9 g) were distributed over 24 aquariums (8 replicates per treatment) and fed a control diet or a diet containing 2% AXOS-32-0.30 or AXOS-3-0.25 for 12 weeks. Growth performance and feed utilization tend to improve in sturgeon fed on diets supplemented with AXOS-32-0.30, however not significant. Survival was high in all groups. Both AXOS preparations significantly enhanced the phagocytic activity of fish macrophages compared to the control group, while the alternative haemolytic complement activity and total serum peroxidase content improved only in the group fed AXOS-32-0.30 (P <0.05). The lysozyme activity was not affected by AXOS addition. Simultaneously, the amount of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) was highest in the hind gut of sturgeon fed AXOS-32-0.30. The concentrations of acetate, butyrate and total SCFAs in fish fed AXOS-32-0.30 was significantly higher than in the groups fed the control diet or AXOS-3-0.25. Study of the bacterial community in the sturgeon hindgut using PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) revealed that both preparations of AXOS induced changes in the bacterial composition. According to redundancy analysis (RDA), hindgut microbiota of each treatment group clustered apart from one another (P = 0.001). DNA sequencing of the dominant DGGE bands recovered from the different treatments showed that AXOS mainly stimulated the growth of lactic acid bacteria and Clostridium sp., with more pronounced effects of AXOS-32-0.30. It is concluded that AXOS improves sturgeon health through prebiotic action, but the induced effects depend on the specific structure of AXOS. A higher degree of polymerization of AXOS had a stronger beneficial impact in this sturgeon species
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