Targeted direct injection/liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry-based metabolomics was employed to identify metabolite alterations that could differentiate subclinical mastitis (SCM) from control (CON) dairy cows at -8, -4, disease diagnosis, +4 and +8 wks relative to parturition. We identified and measured 128 metabolites in the serum. Univariate analysis revealed significant alterations of serum metabolites at all five time points studied. By applying multivariate analyses including principle component analysis and partial least squares-discriminant analysis, some of the metabolites were found to have the strongest power for discriminating the SCM from CON cows. The top five metabolites with the greatest variable importance in projection values were selected as potential biomarkers for SCM. A set of five serum metabolites including lysine, ornithine, isoleucine, LysoPC a C17:0, and leucine at -8 wks and five other metabolites including lysine, leucine, isoleucine, kynurenine, and sphingomyelin (SM) C26:0 at -4 wks prepartum were determined as predictive biomarkers for SCM, which provided highly predictive capabilities with AUC (area under the curve) at 1.00. Five metabolites including lysine, leucine, isoleucine, kynurenine, and SM C26:1 in the serum were identified as diagnostic biomarkers for SCM with the AUC of 1.00. Moreover, we observed that distinct metabolic pathways were affected in SCM cows including lysine degradation, biotin, cysteine, methionine, and glutathione metabolism, valine, leucine, and isoleucine biosynthesis and degradation, and aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis prior to and during the occurrence of the disease. Results of this study showed that metabolomics analyses can be used to identify susceptible cows to SCM starting from -8 and -4 wks prepartum and that blood can be used to diagnose cows with SCM.
Keywords: DI/LC−MS/MS; dairy cow; metabolomics; serum biomarker; subclinical mastitis.