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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 30;9(1):e87374. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087374. eCollection 2014.

The inflammatory response of primary bovine mammary epithelial cells to Staphylococcus aureus strains is linked to the bacterial phenotype.

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  • 1Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland ; Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
  • 2Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 3Institute for Veterinary Pathology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 4Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Staphylococcus aureus is a major mastitis-causing pathogen in dairy cows. The latex agglutination-based Staphaurex test allows bovine S. aureus strains to be grouped into Staphaurex latex agglutination test (SLAT)-negative [SLAT(-)] and SLAT-positive [SLAT(+)] isolates. Virulence and resistance gene profiles within SLAT(-) isolates are highly similar, but differ largely from those of SLAT(+) isolates. Notably, specific genetic changes in important virulence factors were detected in SLAT(-) isolates. Based on the molecular data, it is assumed that SLAT(+) strains are more virulent than SLAT(-) strains. The objective of this study was to investigate if SLAT(-) and SLAT(+) strains can differentially induce an immune response with regard to their adhesive capacity to epithelial cells in the mammary gland and in turn, could play a role in the course of mastitis. Primary bovine mammary epithelial cells (bMEC) were challenged with suspensions of heat inactivated SLAT(+) (n = 3) and SLAT(-) (n = 3) strains isolated from clinical bovine mastitis cases. After 1, 6, and 24 h, cells were harvested and mRNA expression of inflammatory mediators (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-8, RANTES, SAA, lactoferrin, GM-CSF, COX-2, and TLR-2) was evaluated by reverse transcription and quantitative PCR. Transcription (ΔΔCT) of most measured factors was induced in challenged bMEC for 6 and 24 h. Interestingly, relative mRNA levels were higher (P<0.05) in response to SLAT(+) compared to SLAT(-) strains. In addition, adhesion assays on bMEC also showed significant differences between SLAT(+) and SLAT(-) strains. The present study clearly shows that these two S. aureus strain types cause a differential immune response of bMEC and exhibit differences in their adhesion capacity in vitro. This could reflect differences in the severity of mastitis that the different strain types may induce.

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