Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Zhongde Wang


Zhongde Wang


Lee Rickords


Brett Adams


Kerry A. Rood


Thomas J. Baldwin


David J. Wilson


Bovine mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary gland, has substantial economic and animal welfare implications. A genetic basis for mastitis resistance traits is recognized and can be used to guide selective breeding programs. The discovery of regions of the genome associated with mastitis resistance, and knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible, can facilitate development of efficient mastitis control and therapeutic strategies. The objectives of this dissertation research were to identify sites of genetic variation associated with mastitis resistance, and to define the contributions of the milk-secreting epithelial cells to mammary gland immune responses and mastitis resistance. Twenty seven regions of the bovine genome potentially involved in mastitis resistance were identified in Holstein dairy cattle. Additionally, this research demonstrates a role of bovine mammary epithelial cells in mastitis resistance, and provides guidance for the use of an in vitro model for mastitis studies. Primary bovine mammary epithelial cells from mastitis-resistant cows have differential expression of 42 inflammatory genes compared with cells from mastitis-susceptible cows, highlighting the importance of epithelial cells in mastitis resistance. Bovine mammary epithelial cells display both similarities and differences in pro-inflammatory gene expression compared to fibroblasts, and their expression of inflammatory genes is influenced by administration of the enzyme phospholipase A2. The growth potential of milk-derived bovine mammary epithelial cells in vitro can be extended, facilitating their use in mastitis studies, by transfection with a viral protein. Collectively, this research contributes to current knowledge on bovine mastitis resistance and in vitro models.