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Am J Vet Res. 2011 Aug;72(8):1059-64. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.72.8.1059.

Effect of infection with bovine leukosis virus on lymphocyte proliferation and apoptosis in dairy cattle.

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  • 1Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.



To determine effects of infection with bovine leukosis virus (BLV) on lymphocyte proliferation and apoptosis in dairy cattle.


27 adult Holstein cows.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated from whole blood from lactating Holstein cows seronegative for BLV (n = 9 cows), seropositive for BLV and aleukemic (aleukemic; 9), and seropositive for BLV and persistently lymphocytotic (PL; 9). Isolated PBMCs were assayed for mitogen-induced proliferation and were analyzed by means of flow cytometry. The PBMCs from a subset of each group were assayed for apoptosis, caspase-9 activity, and expression of selected genes related to apoptosis.


PL cows had significantly higher total lymphocyte counts and significantly lower proportions of T-lymphocyte populations than did BLV-negative and aleukemic cows. Both groups of BLV-infected cows had significantly higher proportions of B cells and major histocompatibility complex II-expressing cells than did BLV-negative cows. Proliferation with concanavalin A was significantly lower for PL cows, compared with proliferation for BLV-negative cows. Pokeweed mitogen-induced proliferation was significantly higher for aleukemic and PL cows than for BLV-negative cows. Gene expression of apoptosis-inhibitory proteins BCL2 and BCL2L1 was significantly higher for aleukemic cows and expression of BCL2 was significantly higher for PL cows than for BLV-negative cows.


Cattle infected with BLV had marked changes in PBMC populations accompanied by alterations in proliferation and apoptosis mechanisms. Because the relative distribution and function of lymphocyte populations are critical for immune competence, additional studies are needed to investigate the ability of BLV-infected cattle to respond to infectious challenge.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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