The transportation of beef cattle results in a stress response that is associated with increased susceptibility and severity of respiratory diseases, presumably due to an alteration in immune function. Neutrophils are phagocytic immune cells important in lung defense and are also targets of the stress response. The objective of this study was to determine if a 9h transportation of young bulls by road induced changes in the expression of candidate genes known to be important in neutrophil-mediated defense and inflammation in the lung. These neutrophil genes encompassed functions of apoptosis (A1 and Fas), tissue remodeling (MMP-9), vascular margination (L-selectin), bacterial killing (BPI), and wound healing (betaglycan), as well as responsiveness of the cells to stress-induced increases in glucocorticoid hormones (GRalpha). To explore gene expression changes, blood was collected, plasma harvested, and neutrophils isolated from six Belgian Blue x Friesian bulls (231+/-7.0 kg in weight; 282+/-4 days of age) at -24, 0, 4.5, 9.75, 14.25, 24, and 48h relative to commencement of a 9h road transportation by truck. Plasma cortisol concentrations were elevated at 4.5 and 9.75h, peaking at 50.64+/-4.46 ng/mL (P<0.0001) and confirming that the animals experienced stress. Blood neutrophil count was elevated between 4.5 and 14.25h (P<0.0001), reaching a peak that was over 3-fold higher than the -24h concentration. Neutrophil Fas gene expression was acutely down-regulated (P=0.02) by transportation stress, while expressions of MMP-9, l-selectin, and BPI were profoundly up-regulated (P=0.003, 0.002, and <0.001 respectively). However, no changes in neutrophil expressions of betaglycan, GRalpha, and A1 were detected. It is concluded that a 9h transportation of young bulls induces a gene expression signature in blood neutrophils that increases their circulating numbers and may enhance their pro-inflammatory and anti-bacterial potential.
University College Dublin ->