Feeding synthetic zeolite to transition dairy cows alters neutrophil gene expression

M. A. Crookenden, C. V.C. Phyn, S. A. Turner, J. J. Loor, A. I. Smith, V. Lopreiato, C. R. Burke, A. Heiser, J. R. Roche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic zeolites are used to control the availability of dietary minerals (e.g., Ca, Mg, and P) in dairy cows. Due to calcium demand increasing with lactation onset, most cows become hypocalcemic immediately postpartum, which likely contributes to poorer immune function because calcium is important for immune cell signaling. To overcome postpartum hypocalcemia, we fed transition cows synthetic zeolite A (sodium aluminosilicate) precalving and hypothesized that it would alter calcium and thus neutrophil function during the transition period. Multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows in late gestation were randomly allocated to an untreated control group (n = 10) or a treatment group in which each cow received 500 g of zeolite A daily (n = 10) for 14 d prior to the expected calving date (actual duration = 17 ± 3 d prepartum). The cows grazed pasture, and each was supplemented with 2 kg/d of maize silage (dry matter basis), with or without zeolite, until calving. Blood samples for neutrophil isolation and analysis of plasma indicators of mineral status, energy status, liver function, and inflammation were collected pretreatment (covariate; d −19); on d −14 and −7 precalving; on the day of calving (d 0); and on d 1, 4, 7, and 28 postcalving. Neutrophils were isolated and gene expression was analyzed using microfluidic gene expression arrays. Neutrophil respiratory burst was assessed using stimulation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and flow cytometry. Plasma calcium and phosphorus revealed a treatment by time interaction; cows offered zeolite had greater plasma calcium concentrations at d 0, 1, and 4 postcalving and plasma phosphorus concentrations were lower in zeolite-treated cows during the precalving period until d 1 postcalving compared with control animals. Zeolite treatment downregulated neutrophil gene expression of CXCR4 and S100A8 and tended to lower gene expression for other immune mediators (CXCR1, IFNG, S100A12, and S100A9) compared with the control. Zeolite treatment did not affect neutrophil respiratory burst or expression of the other genes investigated. Plasma concentrations of cytokine IL-6 were reduced with zeolite treatment, which was most evident immediately postcalving (d 0, 1, and 7). Overall, feeding zeolite precalving had few effects on neutrophil gene expression and function; however, the lower gene expression of neutrophil inflammatory mediators may be due to altered availability of dietary minerals prepartum and indicates that zeolite A may control inflammation during the transition period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-736
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • hypocalcemia
  • minerals
  • transition period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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