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BMC Vet Res. 2011 Sep 1;7:51. doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-7-51.

Changes in Holstein cow milk and serum proteins during intramammary infection with three different strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

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  • 1Center for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada.



Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most prevalent pathogens to cause mastitis in dairy cattle. Intramammary infection of dairy cows with S. aureus is often subclinical, due to the pathogen's ability to evade the innate defense mechanisms, but this can lead to chronic infection. A sub-population of S. aureus, known as small colony variant (SCV), displays atypical phenotypic characteristics, causes persistent infections, and is more resistant to antibiotics than parent strains. Therefore, it was hypothesized that the host immune response will be different for SCV than its parental or typical strains of S. aureus. In this study, the local and systemic immune protein responses to intramammary infection with three strains of S. aureus, including a naturally occurring bovine SCV strain (SCV Heba3231), were characterized. Serum and casein-depleted milk cytokine levels (interleukin-8, interferon-γ, and transforming growth factor-β1), as well as serum haptoglobin concentrations were monitored over time after intramammary infection with each of the three S. aureus strains. Furthermore, comparative proteomics was used to evaluate milk proteome profiles during acute and chronic phases of S. aureus intramammary infection.


Serum IL-8, IFN-γ, and TGF-β1 responses differed in dairy cows challenged with different strains of S. aureus. Changes in overall serum haptoglobin concentrations were observed for each S. aureus challenge group, but there were no significant differences observed between groups. In casein-depleted milk, strain-specific differences in the host IFN-γ response were observed, but inducible IL-8 and TGF-β1 concentrations were not different between groups. Proteomic analysis of the milk following intramammary infection revealed unique host protein expression profiles that were dependent on the infecting strain as well as phase of infection. Notably, the protein, component-3 of the proteose peptone (CPP3), was differentially expressed between the S. aureus treatment groups, implicating it as a potential antimicrobial peptide involved in host defense against S. aureus intramammary infection.


Intramammary infection of dairy cattle with S. aureus causes an up-regulation of serum and milk immune-related proteins, and these responses vary depending on the infecting strain.

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