Transcriptome analysis reveals regional and temporal differences in mucosal immune system development in the small intestine of neonatal calves

BMC Genomics. 2016 Aug 11;17(1):602. doi: 10.1186/s12864-016-2957-y.


Background: Postnatal development of the mammalian mucosal immune system is crucial for responding to the rapid colonization by commensal bacteria and possible exposure to pathogens. This study analyzed expression patterns for mRNAs and their relationship with microRNAs (miRNAs) in the bovine small intestine during the critical neonatal period (0 to 42 days). This analysis revealed molecular mechanisms regulating the postnatal development of the intestinal mucosal immune system.

Results: Small intestine samples (jejunum and ileum) were collected from newborn male, Holstein calves immediately post-partum (n = 3) and at 7 (n = 5), 21 (n = 5), and 42 (n = 5) days of age and the transcriptomes were profiled using RNA-Seq. When analyzing all time points collectively, greater expression of genes encoding the complement functional pathway, as well as lower expression of genes encoding Toll-like receptors and NOD-like receptors were observed in the jejunum when compared to the ileum. In addition, significant changes in the expression of immune-related genes were detected within the first week post-partum in both jejunum and ileum. For example, increased expression of genes encoding tight junction proteins (claudin 1, claudin 4 and occludin), an antimicrobial peptide (Regenerating Islet-Derived 3-γ), NOD-like receptors (NACHT, LRR and PYD domain-containing protein 3), regulatory T cell marker (forkhead box P3), and both anti-inflammatory (interleukin 10) and pro-inflammatory (interleukin 8) cytokines was observed throughout the small intestine of 7-day-old calves when compared to newborn calves. Moreover, the expression of mucosal immune-related genes were either positively or negatively correlated with total bacterial population depending on both intestinal region and age. The integrated analysis of miRNAs and mRNAs supported the conclusion that miRNAs may regulate temporal changes in the expression of genes encoding tight junction proteins (miR-335), cytokines (miR-335) and bacterial recognition (miR-100) during the first week of small intestine development.

Conclusion: The rapid development of transcriptional differences between jejunum and ileum reveal that these two intestinal regions make distinct contributions to the intestinal mucosal immune system during the early neonatal period. In addition, transcriptome analysis indicates that the first week after birth is a very dynamic developmental period for the intestinal mucosal immune system and these changes may be regulated by both miRNAs and microbial colonization. Findings from this study indicate that a detailed analysis of both the abundance and diversity of the colonizing microbiome may be necessary to understand factors regulating the rapid development of the mucosal immune system during the first week of life.

Keywords: Gene expression; Mucosal immune system; Neonatal calves; RNA-Seq; miRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cattle
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Ileum / growth & development
  • Ileum / immunology
  • Ileum / microbiology
  • Immunity, Mucosal / genetics*
  • Interleukin-10 / genetics
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Interleukin-8 / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / growth & development
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Jejunum / growth & development
  • Jejunum / immunology
  • Jejunum / microbiology
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / immunology*
  • NLR Proteins / genetics
  • NLR Proteins / immunology
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tight Junction Proteins / genetics
  • Tight Junction Proteins / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Transcriptome / immunology*
  • alpha-Defensins / genetics
  • alpha-Defensins / immunology


  • Interleukin-8
  • MicroRNAs
  • NLR Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tight Junction Proteins
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Transcription Factors
  • alpha-Defensins
  • Interleukin-10

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