Potential Role of Lauric Acid in Milk Fat Synthesis in Chinese Holstein Cows Based on Integrated Analysis of Ruminal Microbiome and Metabolome

Huimin Zhang, Yi Wang, Liping Hu, Jiahe Cong, Zhengzhong Xu, Xiang Chen, Shengqi Rao, Mingxun Li, Ziliang Shen, John Mauck, Juan J. Loor, Zhangping Yang, Yongjiang Mao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The composition and metabolic profile of the ruminal microbiome have an impact on milk composition. To unravel the ruminal microbiome and metabolome affecting milk fat synthesis in dairy cows, 16S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) gene sequencing, as well as ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) methods were used to investigate the significant differences in ruminal bacterial and fungal communities as well as metabolome among Chinese Holstein cows with contrasting milk fat contents under the same diet (H-MF 5.82 ± 0.41% vs. L-MF 3.60 ± 0.12%). Another objective was to culture bovine mammary epithelial cells (BMECs) to assess the effect of metabolites on lipid metabolism. Results showed that the acetate-to-propionate ratio and xylanase activity in ruminal fluid were both higher in H-MF. Microbiome sequencing identified 10 types of bacteria and four types of fungi differently abundant at the genus level. Metabolomics analysis indicated 11 different ruminal metabolites between the two groups, the majority of which were lipids and organic acids. Among these, lauric acid (LA) was enriched in fatty acid biosynthesis with its concentration in milk fat of H-MF cows being greater (217 vs. 156 mg per 100 g milk), thus, it was selected for an in vitro study with BMECs. Exogenous LA led to a marked increase in intracellular triglyceride (TG) content and lipid droplet formation, and it upregulated the mRNA abundance of fatty acid uptake and activation (CD36 and ACSL1), TG synthesis (DGAT1, DGAT2 and GPAM), and transcriptional regulation (SREBP1) genes. Taken together, the greater relative abundance of xylan-fermenting bacteria and fungi, and lower abundance of bacteria suppressing short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria or participating in fatty acid hydrogenation altered lipids and organic acids in the rumen of dairy cows. In BMECs, LA altered the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism in mammary cells, ultimately promoting milk fat synthesis. Thus, it appears that this fatty acid plays a key role in milk fat synthesis.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1493
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2024


  • dairy cows
  • bovine mammary epithelial cells
  • lauric acid
  • metabolome
  • microbiome
  • rumen
  • milk fat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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