Targeted metabolomics: new insights into pathobiology of retained placenta in dairy cows and potential risk biomarkers

Animal. 2018 May;12(5):1050-1059. doi: 10.1017/S1751731117002506. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


A targeted quantitative metabolomics approach was used to study temporal changes of serum metabolites in cows that normally released their fetal membranes and those that retained the placenta. We identified and measured serum concentrations of 128 metabolites including amino acids, acylcarnitines, biogenic amines, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids and hexose at -8 and -4 weeks before parturition, during the week of retained placenta (RP) diagnosis, and at +4 and +8 weeks after parturition. In addition, we aimed at identifying metabolite signatures of pre-RP in the serum that might be used as predictive biomarkers for risk of developing RP in dairy cows. Results revealed major alterations in the metabolite fingerprints of pre-RP cows starting as early as -8 weeks before parturition and continuing as far as +8 weeks after calving. Biomarker candidates found in this study are mainly biomarkers of inflammation which might not be specific to RP. Therefore, the relevance of serum Lys, Orn, acetylornithine, lysophophatidylcholine LysoPC a C28:0, Asp, Leu and Ile as potential serum biomarkers for prediction of risk of RP in dairy cows will have to be tested in the future. In addition, lower concentrations of LysoPCs, Trp, and higher kynurenine in the serum during prepartum and the week of occurrence of RP suggest involvement of inflammation in the pathobiology of RP.

Keywords: biomarkers; metabolic disease; metabolomics; retained placenta; transition dairy cows.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / veterinary
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / blood
  • Cattle Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cattle Diseases / etiology*
  • Female
  • Inflammation / veterinary
  • Metabolomics*
  • Parturition
  • Placenta, Retained / blood
  • Placenta, Retained / diagnosis
  • Placenta, Retained / etiology
  • Placenta, Retained / veterinary*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers