Have you ever wondered how the cells in the cow’s udder react to bacterial infection? In our latest study, we used a novel method to investigate the gene expression of primary bovine mammary epithelial cells (pbMECs) after challenge with Escherichia coli, a common cause of mastitis in dairy cattle. Mastitis is a costly and painful disease that affects both animal welfare and milk production. By understanding the molecular mechanisms of the immune response, we hope to find new ways to prevent and treat mastitis, and to breed cows that are more resistant to infection.
We extracted pbMECs from fresh milk samples and cultured them in the laboratory. Then we exposed them to heat-inactivated E. coli and measured the changes in gene expression at 3 and 24 hours post-challenge using RNA sequencing. We found that E. coli challenge induced a strong inflammatory response in the pbMECs, involving genes and pathways related to cytokine signaling, toll-like receptor signaling, and antigen presentation. We also identified some novel candidate genes that have not been previously reported to be associated with mastitis in cattle.
Our study demonstrates that milk-derived pbMECs can be used as a non-invasive, in vitro model to study mastitis resistance in cattle. This approach has several advantages over traditional methods, such as avoiding animal suffering, reducing costs, and enabling high-throughput screening. Our results provide new insights into the molecular basis of the udder immune response and suggest potential targets for future interventions. To learn more, you can read our full paper here: Iso-Touru et al. Veterinary Research (2024) 55:13.