Transcriptomic analysis of circulating neutrophils in metabolically stressed peripartal grazing dairy cows

M. A. Crookenden, K. M. Moyes, B. Kuhn-Sherlock, K. Lehnert, C. G. Walker, J. J. Loor, M. D. Mitchell, A. Murray, V. S.R. Dukkipati, M. Vailati-Riboni, A. Heiser, J. R. Roche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high metabolic demand during the transition into lactation places cows at greater risk of metabolic and infectious disease than at any other time in their lactation cycle. Additionally, a change occurs in the innate immune response during this period, which contributes to increased risk of disease. In the current study, we compared the transcriptomes of neutrophils from dairy cows divergent in their metabolic health post-calving. Cows (n = 5 per risk group) were selected from a parent experiment (n = 45 cows). Those with high or low concentrations of plasma nonesterified fatty acids, plasma β-hydroxybutyrate, and liver triacylglycerol in both wk 1 and 2 were deemed to be at “high risk” (HR) or “low risk” (LR) of metabolic dysfunction, respectively. Circulating neutrophils were isolated at 3 time points during the transition period (d 0 and wk 1 and 4 post-calving), and gene expression was analyzed using RNA sequencing. Differential gene expression between the risk groups was determined using edgeR (, and pathway analysis was conducted using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (Ingenuity Systems, Qiagen, Valencia, CA). Statistical analysis indicated no interaction between risk and week. Therefore, the overall effect of risk was analyzed across all time points. In total, 3,500 genes were differentially expressed between the HR and LR cows (false discovery rate < 0.05). Of these, 2,897 genes were identified by Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and used for pathway analysis. Of the relevant pathways identified, neutrophils isolated from HR cows showed downregulation of genes involved in the recruitment of granulocytes, interferon signaling, and apoptosis, and upregulation of genes involved in cell survival. The results indicate that metabolically stressed cows had reduced neutrophil function during the peripartum period, highlighting a potential relationship between subclinical metabolic disease and innate immune function that suggests that metabolic health negatively affects the innate immune system and may contribute to the state of immunosuppression during the peripartum period. In this way, the metabolic stress among the HR cows may reduce their ability to combat infection during the transition period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7408-7420
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • PMN
  • RNA sequencing
  • peripartum health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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