Cows selected for divergent mastitis susceptibility display a differential liver transcriptome profile after experimental Staphylococcus aureus mammary gland inoculation
Infection and inflammation of the mammary gland, and especially prevention of mastitis, are still major challenges for the dairy industry. Different approaches have been tried to reduce the incidence of mastitis. Genetic selection of cows with lower susceptibility to mastitis promises sustainable success in this regard. Bos taurus autosome (BTA) 18, particularly the region between 43 and 59 Mb, harbors quantitative trait loci (QTL) for somatic cell score, a surrogate trait for mastitis susceptibility. Scrutinizing the molecular bases hereof, we challenged udders from half-sib heifers having inherited either favorable paternal haplotypes for somatic cell score (Q) or unfavorable haplotypes (q) with the Staphylococcus aureus pathogen. RNA sequencing was used for an in-depth analysis of challenge-related alterations in the hepatic transcriptome. Liver exerts highly relevant immune functions aside from being the key metabolic organ. Hence, a holistic approach focusing on the liver enabled us to identify challenge-related and genotype-dependent differentially expressed genes and underlying regulatory networks. In response to the S. aureus challenge, we found that heifers with Q haplotypes displayed more activated immune genes and pathways after S. aureus challenge compared with their q half-sibs. Furthermore, we found a significant enrichment of differentially expressed loci in the genomic target region on BTA18, suggesting the existence of a regionally acting regulatory element with effects on a variety of genes in this region.