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J Anim Sci. 2013 Feb;91(2):861-71. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-3888. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Effect of dietary copper and breed on gene products involved in copper acquisition, distribution, and use in Angus and Simmental cows and fetuses.

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Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695, USA.


Copper (Cu) deficiency is a widespread problem in cattle across the United States and breed differences in Cu metabolism may contribute to this issue. Intracellular Cu is tightly regulated by transport and chaperone proteins, and to date, these mechanisms have not been elucidated to address breed differences in Cu metabolism, nor have these proteins been characterized in bovine fetal liver. Mature, pregnant Angus (n = 8) and Simmental (n = 8) cows (∼4 mo into gestation) were used in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. All cows were bred to Angus sires resulting in an Angus vs. Simmental × Angus comparison for fetuses. Cows were randomly assigned to corn silage-based diets that were either adequate (+Cu) or deficient (-Cu; 6.6 mg Cu/kg DM) in Cu. Diets were individually fed for 112 d. At the end of the study, cows were harvested to collect duodenal mucosa scrapes, liver samples, and fetal liver samples for mineral analysis and also for mRNA and protein analysis of Cu transport and chaperone proteins. Placentomes were also obtained for mineral analysis. Plasma Cu and liver Cu were affected by Cu, breed, and Cu × breed. Both of these Cu indices were less (P ≤ 0.05) in-Cu Simmentals (-CuS) than in-Cu Angus (- uA), but were similar among +Cu Simmental (+CuS) and +Cu Angus cows (+CuA). Duodenal Cu was less (P = 0.01) in-Cu vs. +Cu cows. Placentome Cu was less (P = 0.003) in-Cu vs. +Cu cows, and was also less (P = 0.03) in Simmentals vs. Angus. Fetal liver Cu was less (P = 0.002) in-Cu vs. +Cu fetuses, and was also less (P = 0.05) in Simmental × Angus vs. Angus. Abundance of Cu transporter1 (CTR1) protein and transcripts for Cu transporters and chaperones were not affected by Cu or breed in liver and were not affected by Cu in the intestine. Duodenal Ctr1 was less (P = 0.04) and CTR1 tended (P = 0.10) to be less in Simmentals vs. Angus. Expression of Atp7a tended (P = 0.08) to be less in Simmentals than in Angus. In fetal liver, expression of antioxidant 1 (Atox1), cytochrome c oxidase assembly protein 17 (Cox17), and Cu metabolism MURR1 domain 1 (Commd1) were up-regulated (P ≤ 0.05) in-Cu vs. +Cu fetuses. In conclusion, less expression of duodenal Ctr1 and a tendency for less CTR1 (P = 0.10) and Atp7a (P = 0.08) suggest that Simmentals have a lesser ability to absorb and utilize dietary Cu, and may explain why Simmentals are more prone to Cu deficiency than Angus. Up-regulation of fetal liver Atox1, Cox17, and Commd1 in-Cu fetuses may reflect the great Cu demand by the fetus.

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