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Immune response of bovine milk somatic cells to endotoxin in healthy quarters with normal and very low cell counts

  • Olga Wellnitz (a1), Amandine Baumert (a1), Machabbat Saudenowa (a1) and Rupert M Bruckmaier (a1)


Low somatic cell count (SCC) is a reliable indicator of high-quality milk free of pathogenic microorganisms. Thus, an important goal in dairy practice is to produce milk with low SCC. Selection for cows with low SCC can sometimes lead to extremely low SCC in single quarters. The cells in milk are, however, predominantly immune cells with important immune functions. To investigate the mammary immune competence of quarters with very low SCC, healthy udder quarters of cows with normal SCC of (40–100)×103 cells/ml and very low SCC of <20×103 cells/ml were challenged with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from Escherichia coli. In the first experiment, SCC and cell viability after a challenge with 50 ng of LPS/quarter was investigated. In the second experiment, tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) concentration and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity in milk, and mRNA expression of various innate immune factors in milk cells were measured after a challenge with 100 μg LPS/quarter. LPS challenge induced an increase of SCC. SCC levels reached were higher in quarters with normal SCC and maximum SCC was reached 1 h earlier than in very low SCC quarters. The increase of TNF-α concentrations in milk in response to LPS challenge was lower in quarters with very low SCC than in quarters with normal SCC. The viability of cells and the LDH activity in milk increased in response to LPS challenge, however, without a difference between the groups. The mRNA expression of IL-1β and IL-8 was increased in milk cells at 12 h after LPS challenge, whereas that of TNF-α and lactoferrin was not increased at the measured time points (12, 24 and 36 h after LPS challenge). No differences of mRNA expression of measured immune factors between normal and very low SCC samples were detected. The study showed that udder quarters with very low SCC responded with a less marked increase of SCC compared with quarters with normal SCC. This difference corresponded with simultaneously lower TNF-α concentrations in milk. However, the immune competence of the cells themselves based on mRNA expression of TNF-α, IL-8, IL-1β, and lactoferrin, did not differ. The results may indicate that very low SCC can impair the immune competence of udder quarters, because the immune response in udder quarters with lower SCC is less efficient as fewer cells contribute to the production of immunoregulators.


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Immune response of bovine milk somatic cells to endotoxin in healthy quarters with normal and very low cell counts

  • Olga Wellnitz (a1), Amandine Baumert (a1), Machabbat Saudenowa (a1) and Rupert M Bruckmaier (a1)


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