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J Proteome Res. 2012 Feb 3;11(2):1373-81. doi: 10.1021/pr201017n. Epub 2011 Dec 9.

NMR metabolomic analysis of dairy cows reveals milk glycerophosphocholine to phosphocholine ratio as prognostic biomarker for risk of ketosis.

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Institute of Functional Genomics, University of Regensburg, Germany.


Ketosis is a common metabolic disease in dairy cows. Diagnostic markers for ketosis such as acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid (BHBA) are known, but disease prediction remains an unsolved challenge. Milk is a steadily available biofluid and routinely collected on a daily basis. This high availability makes milk superior to blood or urine samples for diagnostic purposes. In this contribution, we show that high milk glycerophosphocholine (GPC) levels and high ratios of GPC to phosphocholine (PC) allow for the reliable selection of healthy and metabolically stable cows for breeding purposes. Throughout lactation, high GPC values are connected with a low ketosis incidence. During the first month of lactation, molar GPC/PC ratios equal or greater than 2.5 indicate a very low risk for developing ketosis. This threshold was validated for different breeds (Holstein-Friesian, Brown Swiss, and Simmental Fleckvieh) and for animals in different lactations, with observed odds ratios between 1.5 and 2.38. In contrast to acetone and BHBA, these measures are independent of the acute disease status. A possible explanation for the predictive effect is that GPC and PC are measures for the ability to break down phospholipids as a fatty acid source to meet the enhanced energy requirements of early lactation.

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