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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Jan;90(1):274-80.

Regulation of interferon-stimulated genes in peripheral blood leukocytes in pregnant and bred, nonpregnant dairy cows.

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  • 1Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow 83844, USA.


In ruminants, pregnancy results in up-regulation of a large number of IFN-stimulated genes (ISG) in the uterus. Recently, one of these genes was also shown to increase in peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) during early pregnancy in sheep. Our working hypothesis is that conceptus signaling activates maternal gene expression in PBL in dairy cattle. The objectives of this study were to characterize ISG expression in PBL from pregnant (n = 20) and bred, nonpregnant (n = 30) dairy cows. Steady-state levels of mRNA for Mx1, Mx2, beta2-microglobulin, ISG-15, IFN regulatory factor-1, and IFN regulatory factor-2 were quantified. Holstein cows were synchronized to estrus and artificially inseminated (d 0). Blood samples were collected (coccygeal venipuncture) on d 0 and 16, 18, and 20 d after insemination for progesterone analysis and PBL isolation. Pregnancy was confirmed by transrectal ultrasonography at approximately 40 d after breeding. A status x day interaction was detected for Mx1, Mx2, and ISG-15 gene expression. When analyzed within day, levels of mRNA for ISG-15 and Mx1 were greater in pregnant compared with bred, nonpregnant cows on d 18 and 20, respectively. Expression of the Mx2 gene increased in the pregnant group compared with bred, nonpregnant cows on d 16, 18, and 20 after insemination. beta2-Microglobulin, IFN regulatory factor-1, and IFN regulatory factor-2 were not different between groups. The results clearly indicated that components of the innate immune response are activated in PBL during the period of pregnancy recognition and early embryo signaling. The physiological implications of these changes on maternal immune function are as yet unknown; however, they do provide a unique opportunity to identify bred, nonpregnant, cows 18 d after insemination in dairy cattle.

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