Objective: To determine whether clinical progression of paratuberculosis in cattle was associated with alterations in cytokine gene expression in affected tissues.
Animals: 5 uninfected adult Holstein cows, 7 adult Holstein cows naturally infected with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis that did not have clinical signs of disease, and 4 adult Holstein cows naturally infected with M paratuberculosis that had progressive clinical signs of infection.
Procedure: Samples of ileum and cecal lymph nodes were obtained from each animal at the time of slaughter. A reverse transcriptase-competitive polymerase chain reaction assay was used to determine mRNA expression of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin 4 in each sample.
Results: Interferon-gamma gene expression was significantly higher in ileum and cecal lymph node samples from subclinically infected cows than from clinically infected cows.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Progression of paratuberculosis to clinical stages is associated with reduced expression of IFN-gamma at site of infection. If immune response to M paratuberculosis can be manipulated so that IFN-gamma expression is increased, resistance to infection in cattle might be enhanced.