Boron is an essential trace element which plays an important role in process of metabolism and the function of the tissues. However, the effects of boron on the intestinal cells in African ostrich chicks are poorly reported. Therefore, this study was designed to investigate the role of boron on proliferation and apoptosis of the intestinal cells. A total of 36, ten day-old ostrich chicks were randomly divided into six groups and fed on the same basal diet supplemented with 0, 40, 80, 160, 320 and 640 mg/L boric acid in drinking water for 80 days. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was used to test the proliferation index of intestine in different group by immunohistochemical staining (IHC). Apoptotic cells of intestine were detected by Dutp-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) reaction and evaluated by integral optical density (IOD). Results showed that proliferation of intestinal cells significantly increased in groups of 80, 160, 320 and 640 mg/L. TUNEL reaction showed that apoptosis significantly decreased in 80 mg/L groups, while significantly increased in high dose of boron groups (320 and 640 mg/L), especially in epithelium. In conclusion, low dose of boron-supplemented water could promote cell proliferation and depress apoptosis, while high dose of boron could cause intestinal apoptosis and thus we found increased proliferation of intestine cell as a compensatory adaption. These findings may support optimal dosage of boron that could protect the development of ostrich intestine, while high dosage of boron could suppress it, or even has toxic effects on it.
KEY WORDS: Apoptosis; Boron; Intestine; Ostrich chicks; Proliferation.