Parity-dependent Association Between TNF and LTF Gene Polymorphisms and Clinical Mastitis in Dairy Cattle

A team of Polish scientists has found little evidence that certain genes code for higher mastitis immunity after conducting a study on a large herd in western Poland.
calendar icon 30 July 2013
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Although our study showed significant associations between TNF-α and LTF and immunity to mastitis, the results would be difficult to apply in marker-assisted selection programmes due to interactions with parity, writes Katarzyna Wojdak-Maksymiec of the West Pomeranian University of Technology, Szczecin in Poland.

On the other hand, our findings provide insight into the complex mechanisms of immunity to infections. It is supposed that the interactions between gene effects and parity are related to the phenomenon of inflamm-ageing.


One major problem in dairy cattle husbandry is the prevalence of udder infections. In today’s breeding programmes, top priority is being given to making animal evaluation more cost-effective and reliable and less time-consuming. We proposed tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), lactoferrin (LTF) and macrophage-expressed lysozyme (mLYZ) genes as potential DNA markers in the improvement of immunity to mastitis.

This study included 588 Polish Holstein-Friesian cows kept on one farm located in the north-western region of Poland. All clinical cases of mastitis in the herd under study were recorded by a qualified veterinarian employed by the farm.

The following indicators were applied to determine udder immunity to mastitis in the cows under study: morbidity rate (MR), duration of mastitis (DM) and extent of mastitis (EM). TNF-α, mLYZ and LTF genotypes were identified by real-time PCR method, using SimpleProbe technology. Due to the very low frequency of mLYZ allele T, the gene was excluded from further analysis.

A statistical analysis of associations between TNF-α and LTF genes and immunity to mastitis were performed using three models: 1) a parity-averaged model including only additive effects of the genes; 2) a parity-averaged model including both additive and epistatic effects of the genes; and 3) a parity-specific model including only additive effects of the genes.


With the first and second models it was revealed that the genes effects on the applied indicators of immunity to mastitis were non-significant whereas with the third one the effects were found to be statistically significant. Particularly noteworthy was the finding that the effects of TNF-α and LTF varied depending on age (parity). The alleles which were linked to high immunity to mastitis in lower parities appeared to be less favourable in higher parities.


These interactions might be related to inflamm-ageing, that is an increased susceptibility to infection due to immune system deregulation that progresses with age. Such pattern of interactions makes it impossible to use the genes in question in marker-assisted selection aimed at reducing heritable susceptibility to mastitis. This is because the immune mechanisms behind resistance to infections proved to be too complex.

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