Lactation in dairy cattle is associated with a multitude of endocrine, metabolic and immunological changes that not only influence animal health, but also affect fertility, and in particular ovarian function. We have previously generated a global transcriptomic profile of bovine follicular tissue using RNA sequencing. This study aimed to: identify key immune-related transcriptional changes that occur during follicle differentiation and luteinisation using ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA); and determine if a compromised model of stress (i.e. lactation) influences the temporal expression of these genes. Ovarian follicular tissue from Holstein-Friesian non-lactating heifers (n= 17) and lactating cows ( n= 16) was compared at three stages of preovulatory follicle development: (A) the newly selected dominant follicle in the luteal phase (Selection); (B) the follicular phase before the LH surge (Differentiation), and (C) the preovulatory phase after the LH surge (Luteinisation). IPA revealed an over-representation of immune-related pathways in theca compared with granulosa cells during differentiation; these were related to leucocyte extravasation and chemotaxis. Conversely, luteinisation was characterised by over-representation of immune-related pathways in granulosa compared with theca cells; these were related to inflammation and innate immune response. Notably, comparison of follicles from heifers and lactating cows revealed a large number of differentially expressed genes associated with immune cell subpopulations and chemotaxis. In conclusion, identification of immune-related canonical pathways during follicle development supports the hypothesis that ovulation is an inflammatory event. This process is influenced by the physiological status of lactation and likely contributes to compromised peri-ovulatory follicle function by impairing the inflammatory process of ovulation.
- RNA sequencing