Prepartum body condition score and plane of nutrition affect the hepatic transcriptome during the transition period in grazing dairy cows

M. Vailati-Riboni, S. Meier, C. R. Burke, J. K. Kay, M. D. Mitchell, C. G. Walker, M. A. Crookenden, A. Heiser, S. L. Rodriguez-Zas, J. R. Roche, J. J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A transcriptomic approach was used to evaluate potential interactions between prepartum body condition score (BCS) and feeding management in the weeks before calving on hepatic metabolism during the periparturient period. Methods: Thirty-two mid-lactation grazing dairy cows of mixed age and breed were randomly allocated to one of four treatment groups in a 2×2 factorial arrangement: two prepartum BCS categories [4.0 (thin, BCS4) and 5.0 (optimal, BCS5); based on a 10-point scale], and two levels of energy intake during the 3weeks preceding calving (75 and 125% of estimated requirements). Liver samples were obtained at 7, 7, and 28 d relative to parturition and subsequent RNA was hybridized to the Agilent 44K Bovine (V2) Microarray chip. The Dynamic Impact Approach was used for pathway analysis, and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was used for gene network analysis. Results: The greater number of differentially expressed genes in BCS4 cows in response to prepartum feed allowance (1071 vs 310, over the entire transition period) indicates that these animals were more responsive to prepartum nutrition management than optimally-conditioned cows. However, independent of prepartum BCS, pathway analysis revealed that prepartal feeding level had a marked effect on carbohydrate, amino acid, lipid, and glycan metabolism. Altered carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism suggest a greater and more prolonged negative energy balance postpartum in BCS5 cows overfed prepartum. This is supported by opposite effects of prepartum feeding in BCS4 compared with BCS5 cows in pathways encompassing amino acid, vitamin, and co-factor metabolism. The prepartum feed restriction ameliorates the metabolic adaptation to the onset of lactation in BCS5 cows, while detrimentally affecting BCS4 cows, which seem to better adapt when overfed. Alterations in the glycosaminoglycans synthesis pathway support this idea, indicating better hepatic health status in feed-restricted BCS5 and overfed BCS4 cows. Furthermore, IPA network analysis suggests liver damage in feed-restricted thin cows, likely due to metabolic overload. Conclusion: Overall, the data support the hypothesis that overfeeding in late-pregnancy should be limited to underconditioned cows, while cows with optimal degree of body condition should be maintained on an energy-restricted diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number854
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2 2016


  • BCS
  • Liver transcriptome
  • Peripartum
  • Prepartum nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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