Evaluation of cytokine expression by blood monocytes of lactating Holstein cows with or without postpartum uterine disease

K. N. Galvão, M. J B Felippe, S. B. Brittin, R. Sper, M. Fraga, J. S. Galvão, L. Caixeta, C. L. Guard, A. Ricci, R. O. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Whereas neutrophils are the main phagocytic leukocytes, monocytes and macrophages are actively involved in immunomodulation after infection. Recent studies have demonstrated that neutrophil function is impaired by the state of negative energy balance around parturition, and that cows that develop uterine disease have a greater degree of negative energy balance than healthy cows. The objectives of this study were to compare monocyte gene expression and protein secretion of selected cytokines from calving to 42 d after calving in Holstein cows that did or did not develop uterine disease. Real time quantitative RT-PCR (Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10) and ELISA (TNFα, IL-1β and IL-8) were used to evaluate cytokine response following in vitro stimulation of blood-derived monocytes with irradiated E. coli. Relative to unstimulated cells, E. coli-stimulated monocytes from cows with metritis had lower gene expression of key pro-inflammatory cytokines than healthy cows from calving to 14 d after calving (TNFα at 0, 7, and 14 d after calving, IL-1β and IL-6 at 7 and 14 d after calving; P < 0.05). There were no significant differences between groups for expression of IL-8 or the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. This was due, in part, to higher gene expression in unstimulated monocytes (TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-10) in early lactation from cows with metritis. Expression of mRNA in stimulated cells (relative to housekeeping genes) was lower for TNFα (7 and 14 d postpartum) and for IL-10 (7 and 14 d postpartum) in cows with metritis. Concentration of TNFα was lower in the culture medium of E. coli-stimulated monocytes from cows with metritis than healthy cows at calving and 7 and 21 d after calving (P < 0.05). Circulating cytokine concentrations were not different between groups for IL-8 and were below the limits of detection for TNFα and IL-1β. Cytokine gene expression and production were similar between healthy cows and cows that developed endometritis, diagnosed cytologically at 42 d after calving. We concluded that altered levels of expression and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines postpartum could contribute to impaired inflammatory response and predispose cows to development of metritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-372
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported in part by Pfizer Animal Health, Inc. We are grateful for the support of Mr. Neil Rejman and Sunnyside Farms. We also extend our gratitude to Mary Beth Matychak for her help with isolating and culturing PBMCs, to John Churey and Randy Worobo for the ultraviolet treatment of the E. coli used in this experiment, and to Rebecca Quesnell and Ynte Schukken for help with the ELISA protocol.


  • Cytokines
  • Dairy cows
  • Endometritis
  • Gene expression
  • Metritis


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