Combining Genome Wide Association Studies and Differential Gene Expression Data Analyses Identifies Candidate Genes Affecting Mastitis Caused by Two Different Pathogens in the Dairy Cow


Mastitis is a costly disease which hampers the dairy industry. Inflammation of the mammary gland is commonly caused by bacterial infection, mainly Escherichia coli, Streptococcus uberis and Staphylococcus aureus. As more bacteria become multi-drug resistant, one potential approach to reduce the disease incidence rate is to breed selectively for the most appropriate and potentially protective innate immune response. The genetic contribution to effective disease resistance is, however, difficult to identify due to the complex interactions that occur. In the present study two published datasets were searched for common differentially expressed genes (DEGs) with similar changes in expression in mammary tissue following intra-mammary challenge with either E. coli or S. uberis. Additionally, the results of seven published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on different dairy cow populations were used to compile a list of SNPs associated with somatic cell count. All genes located within 2 Mbp of significant SNPs were retrieved from the Ensembl database, based on the UMD3.1 assembly. A final list of 48 candidate genes with a role in the innate immune response identified from both the DEG and GWAS studies was further analyzed using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. The main signalling pathways highlighted in the response of the bovine mammary gland to both bacterial infections were 1) granulocyte adhesion and diapedesis, 2) ephrin receptor signalling, 3) RhoA signalling and 4) LPS/IL1 mediated inhibition of RXR function. These pathways comprised a network regulating the activity of leukocytes, especially neutrophils, during mammary gland inflammation. The timely and properly controlled movement of leukocytes to infection loci seems particularly important in achieving a good balance between pathogen elimination and excessive tissue damage. These results suggest that polymorphisms in key genes in these pathways such as SELP, SELL, BCAR1, ACTR3, CXCL2, CXCL6, CXCL8 and FABP may influence the ability of dairy cows to resist mastitis.

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Chen, X. , Cheng, Z. , Zhang, S. , Werling, D. and Wathes, D. (2015) Combining Genome Wide Association Studies and Differential Gene Expression Data Analyses Identifies Candidate Genes Affecting Mastitis Caused by Two Different Pathogens in the Dairy Cow. Open Journal of Animal Sciences, 5, 358-393. doi: 10.4236/ojas.2015.54040.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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