Global transcriptomic profiles of circulating leucocytes in early lactation cows with clinical or subclinical mastitis

Mol Biol Rep. 2021 May;48(5):4611-4623. doi: 10.1007/s11033-021-06494-8. Epub 2021 Jun 19.


Bovine mastitis, an inflammatory disease of the mammary gland, is classified as subclinical or clinical. Circulating neutrophils are recruited to the udder to combat infection. We compared the transcriptomic profiles in circulating leukocytes between healthy cows and those with naturally occurring subclinical or clinical mastitis. Holstein Friesian dairy cows from six farms in EU countries were recruited. Based on milk somatic cell count and clinical records, cows were classified as healthy (n = 147), subclinically (n = 45) or clinically mastitic (n = 22). Circulating leukocyte RNA was sequenced with Illumina NextSeq single end reads (30 M). Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between the groups were identified using CLC Genomics Workbench V21, followed by GO enrichment analysis. Both subclinical and clinical mastitis caused significant changes in the leukocyte transcriptome, with more intensive changes attributed to clinical mastitis. We detected 769 DEGs between clinical and healthy groups, 258 DEGs between subclinical and healthy groups and 193 DEGs between clinical and subclinical groups. Most DEGs were associated with cell killing and immune processes. Many upregulated DEGs in clinical mastitis encoded antimicrobial peptides (AZU1, BCL3, CAMP, CATHL1, CATHL2, CATHL4,CATHL5, CATHL6, CCL1, CXCL2, CXCL13, DEFB1, DEFB10, DEFB4A, DEFB7, LCN2, PGLYRP1, PRTN3, PTX3, S100A8, S100A9, S100A12, SLC11A1, TF and LTF) which were not upregulated in subclinical mastitis. The use of transcriptomic profiles has identified a much greater up-regulation of genes encoding antimicrobial peptides in circulating leukocytes of cows with naturally occurring clinical compared with subclinical mastitis. These could play a key role in combatting disease organisms.

Keywords: Bovine mastitis; Inflammation; Next generation sequence; Transcriptome.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Peptides / classification
  • Antimicrobial Peptides / genetics*
  • Antimicrobial Peptides / isolation & purification
  • Cattle
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Lactation / genetics*
  • Mastitis, Bovine / genetics*
  • Mastitis, Bovine / metabolism
  • Mastitis, Bovine / microbiology
  • Mastitis, Bovine / pathology
  • Milk / cytology
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • Antimicrobial Peptides