Integrated meta-omics analyses reveal a role of ruminal microorganisms in ketone body accumulation and ketosis in lactating dairy cows

Qiuju Wang, Yizhe Cui, Nagaraju Indugu, Juan J. Loor, Qianming Jiang, Zhongtang Yu, Linda Baker, Dipti Pitta, Zhaoju Deng, Chuang Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extent to which a nutrition-related disorder such as ketosis alters the ruminal microbiota or whether microbiota composition is related to ketosis and potential associations with host metabolism is unknown. We aimed to evaluate variations occurring in the ruminal microbiota of ketotic and nonketotic cows in the early postpartum period, and how those changes may affect the risk of developing the disease. Data on milk yield, dry matter intake (DMI), body condition score, and blood β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) concentrations at 21 d postpartum were used to select 27 cows, which were assigned (n = 9 per group) to a clinical ketotic (CK, 4.10 ± 0.72 mmol BHB/L, DMI 11.61 ± 0.49 kg/d, ruminal pH 7.55 ± 0.07), subclinical ketotic (SK, 1.36 ± 0.12 mmol BHB/L, DMI 15.24 ± 0.34 kg/d, ruminal pH 7.58 ± 0.08), or control (NK, 0.88 ± 0.14 mmol BHB/L, DMI 16.74 ± 0.67/d, ruminal pH 7.61 ± 0.03) group. Cows averaged 3.6 ± 0.5 lactations and a body condition score of 3.11 ± 0.34 at the time of sampling. After blood serum collection for metabolomics analysis (1H nuclear magnetic resonance spectra), 150 mL of ruminal digesta was collected from each cow using an esophageal tube, paired-end (2 × 300 bp) sequencing of isolated DNA from ruminal digesta was performed via Illumina MiSeq, and sequencing data were analyzed using QIIME2 (v 2020.6) to measure the ruminal microbiota composition and relative abundance. Spearman correlation coefficients were used to evaluate relationships between relative abundance of bacterial genera and concentrations of serum metabolites. There were more than 200 genera, with approximately 30 being significant between NK and CK cows. Succinivibrionaceae UCG 1 taxa decreased in CK compared with NK cows. Christensenellaceae (Spearman correlation coefficient = 0.6), Ruminococcaceae (Spearman correlation coefficient = 0.6), Lachnospiraceae (Spearman correlation coefficient = 0.5), and Prevotellaceae (Spearman correlation coefficient = 0.6) genera were more abundant in the CK group and were highly positively correlated with plasma BHB. Metagenomic analysis indicated a high abundance of predicted functions related to metabolism (37.7%), genetic information processing (33.4%), and Brite hierarchies (16.3%) in the CK group. The 2 most important metabolic pathways for butyrate and propionate production were enriched in CK cows, suggesting increased production of acetyl coenzyme A and butyrate and decreased production of propionate. Overall, the combined data suggested that microbial populations may be related to ketosis by affecting short-chain fatty acid metabolism and BHB accumulation even in cows with adequate feed intake in the early postpartum period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4906-4917
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • lactation
  • metabolomics
  • metagenomics
  • transition period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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