The effect of calving in the summer on the hepatic transcriptome of Holstein cows during the peripartal period

K. Shahzad, H. Akbar, M. Vailati-Riboni, L. Basiricò, P. Morera, S. L. Rodriguez-Zas, A. Nardone, U. Bernabucci, J. J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The liver is the main metabolic organ coordinating the adaptations that take place during the peripartal period of dairy cows. A successful transition into lactation, rather than management practices alone, depends on environmental factors such as temperature, season of parturition, and photoperiod. Therefore, we analyzed the effect of calving season on the hepatic transcriptome of dairy cows during the transition period. A total of 12 Holstein dairy cows were assigned into 2 groups based on calving season (6 cows March-April, spring; 6 cows June-July, summer, SU). The RNA was extracted from liver samples obtained at -30, 3, and 35 DIM via percutaneous biopsy and hybridized to the Agilent 44K Bovine (V2) Gene Expression Microarray (Agilent Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, CA). A quantitative PCR on 22 target genes was performed to verify and expand the analyses. A total of 4,307 differentially expressed genes were detected (false discovery rate ≤0.05) in SU compared with spring. Furthermore, 73 unique differentially expressed genes were detected in SU compared with spring cows after applying a fold-change threshold ≥3 and ≤-3. For Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways analysis of differentially expressed genes, we used the dynamic impact approach. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis software was used to analyze upstream transcription regulators and perform gene network analysis. Among metabolic pathways, energy metabolism from lipids, carbohydrates, and amino acids was strongly affected by calving in SU, with a reduced level of fatty acid synthesis, oxidation, re-esterification, and synthesis of lipoproteins, leading to hepatic lipidosis. Glycan-synthesis was downregulated in SU cows probably as a mechanism to counteract the progression of this lipidosis. In contrast, calving in the SU resulted in upregulation of gluconeogenesis but also greater use of glucose as an energy source. Among nonmetabolic pathways, the heat-shock response was obviously activated in SU cows but was also associated with inflammatory and intracellular stress response. Furthermore, data support a recent finding that cows experience endoplasmic reticulum stress around parturition. Transcription regulator analysis revealed how metabolic changes are related to important regulatory mechanisms, including epigenetic modification. The holistic analyses of the liver transcriptome response to calving in the summer at high environmental temperatures underscore how transition cows should be carefully managed during this period, as they experience alterations in liver energy metabolism and inflammatory state increasing susceptibility to health disorders in early postpartum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5401-5413
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Bioinformatics
  • Heat stress
  • Lactation
  • Parturition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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