Periparturient cows have been found to reveal immunosuppression, frequently associated with increased susceptibility to uterine and mammary infections. To improve understanding of the causes and molecular regulatory mechanisms accounting for this phenomenon around calving, we examined the effect of an antigen challenge on gene expression modulation on cows prior to (BC) or after calving (AC) using whole transcriptome sequencing (RNAseq). The transcriptome analysis of the cows' blood identified a substantially higher number of loci affected in BC cows (2,235) in response to vaccination compared to AC cows (208) and revealed a divergent transcriptional profile specific for each group. In BC cows, a variety of loci involved in immune defense and cellular signaling processes were transcriptionally activated, whereas protein biosynthesis and posttranslational processes were tremendously impaired in response to vaccination. Furthermore, energy metabolism in the blood cells of BC cows was shifted from oxidative phosphorylation to the glycolytic system. In AC cows, the number and variety of regulated pathways involved in immunomodulation and maintenance of immnunocompetence are considerably lower after vaccination, and upregulation of arginine degradation was suggested as an immunosuppressive mechanism. Elevated transcript levels of erythrocyte-specific genes involved in gas exchange processes were a specific transcriptional signature in AC cows pointing to hematopoiesis activation. The divergent and substantially lower magnitude of transcriptional modulation in response to vaccination in AC cows provides evidence for a suppressed immune capacity of early lactating cows on the molecular level and demonstrates that an efficient immune response of cows is related to their physiological and metabolic status.
Weikard, R., Demasius, W., Hadlich, F., & Kühn, C. (2015). Different blood cell-derived transcriptome signatures in cows exposed to vaccination pre- or postpartum. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136927