Microfluidic high-throughput RT-qPCR measurements of the immune response of primary bovine mammary epithelial cells cultured from milk to mastitis pathogens

Animal. 2013 May;7(5):799-805. doi: 10.1017/S1751731112002315. Epub 2012 Dec 11.


Bovine mastitis, the inflammation of the udder, is a major problem for the dairy industry and for the welfare of the animals. To better understand this disease, and to implement two special techniques for studying mammary gland immunity in vitro, we measured the innate immune response of primary bovine mammary epithelial cells (pbMEC) from six Brown Swiss cows after stimulation with the heat-inactivated mastitis pathogens, Escherichia coli 1303 and Staphylococcus aureus 1027. The cells were extracted and cultivated from milk instead of udder tissue, which is usually done. The advantages of this technique are non-invasiveness and less contamination by fibroblasts. For the first time, pbMEC gene expression (GE) was measured with a microfluidic high-throughput real-time reverse transcription-quantitative PCR platform, the BioMark HD™ system from Fluidigm. In addition to the physiological analysis, the precision and suitability of this method was evaluated in a large data set. The mean coefficient of variance (± s.e.) between repeated chips was 4.3 ± 0.4% for highly expressed and 3.3 ± 0.4% for lowly expressed genes. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) replicate deviations were smaller than the cell culture replicate deviations, indicating that biological and cell culture differences could be distinguished from the background noise. Twenty-two genes (complement system, chemokines, inflammatory cytokines, antimicrobial peptides, acute phase response and toll-like receptor signalling) were differentially expressed (P < 0.05) with E. coli. The most upregulated gene was the acute phase protein serum amyloid A3 with 618-time fold. S. aureus slightly induced CCL5, IL10, TLR4 and S100A12 expression and failed to elicit a distinct overall innate immune response. We showed that, with this milk-derived pbMEC culture and the high-throughput qPCR technique, it is possible to obtain similar results in pbMEC expression as with conventional PCR and with satisfactory precision so that it can be applied in future GE studies in pbMEC.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology*
  • Female
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology*
  • Mastitis, Bovine / microbiology*
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / veterinary*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary*