Now showing items 26-45 of 261

• #### C:N:P stoichiometry and nutrient limitation of the soil microbial biomass in a grazed grassland site under experimental P limitation or excess

Introduction: The availability of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), can feedback on soil carbon (C) and the soil microbial biomass. Natural cycles can be supplemented by agricultural fertiliser addition, and we determined whether the stoichiometry and nutrient limitation of the microbial biomass could be affected by an unbalanced nutrient supply. Methods: Samples were taken from a long-term trial (in effect since 1968) with annual applications of 0, 15 and 30 kg P ha−1 with constant N and potassium. Soil and microbial biomass CNP contents were measured and nutrient limitation assessed by substrate-induced respiration. Linear regression and discriminant analyses were used to identify the variables explaining nutrient limitation. Results: Soil and biomass CNP increased with increasing P fertiliser, and there was a significant, positive, correlation between microbial biomass P and biomass C, apart from at the highest level of P fertilisation when the microbial biomass was over-saturated with P. The molar ratios of C:N:P in the microbial biomass remained constant (homeostatic) despite large changes in the soil nutrient ratios. Microbial growth was generally limited by C and N, except in soil with no added P when C and P were the main limiting nutrients. C, N and P, however, did not explain all the growth limitation on the soils with no added P. Conclusions: Increased soil C and N were probably due to increased net primary production. Our results confirm that C:N:P ratios within the microbial biomass were constrained (i.e. homeostatic) under near optimum soil conditions. Soils with no added P were characterised by strong microbial P limitation and soils under high P by over-saturation of microorganisms with P. Relative changes in biomass C:P can be indicative of nutrient limitation within a site.
• #### Calf health from birth to weaning. I. General aspects of disease prevention

Calfhood diseases have a major impact on the economic viability of cattle operations. This is the first in a three part review series on calf health from birth to weaning, focusing on preventive measures. The review considers both pre- and periparturient management factors influencing calf health, colostrum management in beef and dairy calves and further nutrition and weaning in dairy calves.
• #### Calf health from birth to weaning. III. Housing and management of calf pneumonia

Calfhood diseases have a major impact on the economic viability of cattle operations. A three part review series has been developed focusing on calf health from birth to weaning. In this paper, the last of the three part series, we review disease prevention and management with particular reference to pneumonia, focusing primarily on the pre-weaned calf. Pneumonia in recently weaned suckler calves is also considered, where the key risk factors are related to the time of weaning. Weaning of the suckler calf is often combined with additional stressors including a change in nutrition, environmental change, transport and painful husbandry procedures (castration, dehorning). The reduction of the cumulative effects of these multiple stressors around the time of weaning together with vaccination programmes (preconditioning) can reduce subsequent morbidity and mortality in the feedlot. In most studies, calves housed individually and calves housed outdoors with shelter, are associated with decreased risk of disease. Even though it poses greater management challenges, successful group housing of calves is possible. Special emphasis should be given to equal age groups and to keeping groups stable once they are formed. The management of pneumonia in calves is reliant on a sound understanding of aetiology, relevant risk factors, and of effective approaches to diagnosis and treatment. Early signs of pneumonia include increased respiratory rate and fever, followed by depression. The single most important factor determining the success of therapy in calves with pneumonia is early onset of treatment, and subsequent adequate duration of treatment. The efficacy and economical viability of vaccination against respiratory disease in calves remains unclear.
• #### Carbohydrate catabolic flexibility in the mammalian intestinal commensal Lactobacillus ruminis revealed by fermentation studies aligned to genome annotations

Background: Lactobacillus ruminis is a poorly characterized member of the Lactobacillus salivarius clade that is part of the intestinal microbiota of pigs, humans and other mammals. Its variable abundance in human and animals may be linked to historical changes over time and geographical differences in dietary intake of complex carbohydrates. Results: In this study, we investigated the ability of nine L. ruminis strains of human and bovine origin to utilize fifty carbohydrates including simple sugars, oligosaccharides, and prebiotic polysaccharides. The growth patterns were compared with metabolic pathways predicted by annotation of a high quality draft genome sequence of ATCC 25644 (human isolate) and the complete genome of ATCC 27782 (bovine isolate). All of the strains tested utilized prebiotics including fructooligosaccharides (FOS), soybean-oligosaccharides (SOS) and 1,3:1,4-β-D-gluco-oligosaccharides to varying degrees. Six strains isolated from humans utilized FOS-enriched inulin, as well as FOS. In contrast, three strains isolated from cows grew poorly in FOS-supplemented medium. In general, carbohydrate utilisation patterns were strain-dependent and also varied depending on the degree of polymerisation or complexity of structure. Six putative operons were identified in the genome of the human isolate ATCC 25644 for the transport and utilisation of the prebiotics FOS, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), SOS, and 1,3:1,4-β-D-Gluco-oligosaccharides. One of these comprised a novel FOS utilisation operon with predicted capacity to degrade chicory-derived FOS. However, only three of these operons were identified in the ATCC 27782 genome that might account for the utilisation of only SOS and 1,3:1,4-β-D-Gluco-oligosaccharides. Conclusions: This study has provided definitive genome-based evidence to support the fermentation patterns of nine strains of Lactobacillus ruminis, and has linked it to gene distribution patterns in strains from different sources. Furthermore, the study has identified prebiotic carbohydrates with the potential to promote L. ruminis growth in vivo.
• #### A case of bovine raw milk contamination with Listeria monocytogenes

During routine sampling of bulk raw milk on a dairy farm, the pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes was found to be a contaminant, at numbers < 100 cfu/ml. A strain with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern was isolated from the bulk milk two months later. Environmental swabs taken at the dairy environment were negative for the presence of L. monocytogenes, indicating a possible case of excretion of the L. monocytogenes directly into the milk. Milk samples were collected from the individual cows and analysed, resulting in the identification of L. monocytogenes excretion (at 280 cfu/ml) from one of the 4 mammary quarters of one dairy cow out of 180. When the infected cow was isolated from the herd, no L. monocytogenes was detected from the remaining herd. The pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern of the strain from the individual cow was indistinguishable from that originally isolated from the bulk milk. The infected cow did not show any clinical signs of disease, nor did the appearance of the milk have any physical abnormalities. Antibiotic treatment of the infected mammary quarter was found to be ineffective. This study shows that there can be risks associated with direct contamination of raw milk with L. monocytogenes.
• #### Catabolic flexibility of mammalian-associated lactobacilli

Metabolic flexibility may be generally defined as “the capacity for the organism to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability”. The metabolic diversification strategies used by individual bacteria vary greatly from the use of novel or acquired enzymes to the use of plasmid-localised genes and transporters. In this review, we describe the ability of lactobacilli to utilise a variety of carbon sources from their current or new environments in order to grow and survive. The genus Lactobacillus now includes more than 150 species, many with adaptive capabilities, broad metabolic capacity and species/strain variance. They are therefore, an informative example of a cell factory capable of adapting to new niches with differing nutritional landscapes. Indeed, lactobacilli naturally colonise and grow in a wide variety of environmental niches which include the roots and foliage of plants, silage, various fermented foods and beverages, the human vagina and the mammalian gastrointestinal tract (GIT; including the mouth, stomach, small intestine and large intestine). Here we primarily describe the metabolic flexibility of some lactobacilli isolated from the mammalian gastrointestinal tract, and we also describe some of the food-associated species with a proven ability to adapt to the GIT. As examples this review concentrates on the following species - Lb. plantarum, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. ruminis, Lb. salivarius, Lb. reuteri and Lb. sakei, to highlight the diversity and inter-relationships between the catabolic nature of species within the genus.
• #### Characterisation and expression profile of the bovine cathelicidin gene repertoire in mammary tissue

Abstract Background Cathelicidins comprise a major group of host-defence peptides. Conserved across a wide range of species, they have several functions related to host defence. Only one cathelicidin has been found in humans but several cathelicidin genes occur in the bovine genome. We propose that these molecules may have a protective role against mastitis. The aim of this study was to characterise the cathelicidin gene-cluster in the bovine genome and to identify sites of expression in the bovine mammary gland. Results Bioinformatic analysis of the bovine genome (BosTau7) revealed seven protein-coding cathelicidin genes, CATHL1-7, including two identical copies of CATHL4, as well as three additional putative cathelicidin genes, all clustered on the long arm of chromosome 22. Six of the seven protein-coding genes were expressed in leukocytes extracted from milk of high somatic cell count (SCC) cows. CATHL5 was expressed across several sites in the mammary gland, but did not increase in response to Staphylococcus aureus infection. Conclusions Here, we characterise the bovine cathelicidin gene cluster and reconcile inconsistencies in the datasets of previous studies. Constitutive cathelicidin expression in the mammary gland suggests a possible role for these host defence peptides its protection. Background Cathelicidins comprise a major group of host-defence peptides. Conserved across a wide range of species, they have several functions related to host defence. Only one cathelicidin has been found in humans but several cathelicidin genes occur in the bovine genome. We propose that these molecules may have a protective role against mastitis. The aim of this study was to characterise the cathelicidin gene-cluster in the bovine genome and to identify sites of expression in the bovine mammary gland. Results Bioinformatic analysis of the bovine genome (BosTau7) revealed seven protein-coding cathelicidin genes, CATHL1-7, including two identical copies of CATHL4, as well as three additional putative cathelicidin genes, all clustered on the long arm of chromosome 22. Six of the seven protein-coding genes were expressed in leukocytes extracted from milk of high somatic cell count (SCC) cows. CATHL5 was expressed across several sites in the mammary gland, but did not increase in response to Staphylococcus aureus infection. Conclusions Here, we characterise the bovine cathelicidin gene cluster and reconcile inconsistencies in the datasets of previous studies. Constitutive cathelicidin expression in the mammary gland suggests a possible role for these host defence peptides its protection.
• #### Characterisation of physiological and immunological responses in beef cows to abrupt weaning and subsequent housing

Background: Weaning involves the permanent separation of the calf from the dam and has been shown to be stressful for both. The objectives of this study were to characterise the effect of i) abrupt weaning and ii) subsequent housing on the extended physiological and immunological responses of beef cows. At weaning (day (d) 0, mean age of calf (s.d.) 212 (24.5) d), cows were abruptly separated from their calves and returned to the grazing area. After 35 d at pasture, cows were housed in a slatted floor shed and offered grass silage ad libitum plus a mineral-vitamin supplement daily. Rectal body temperature was recorded and blood samples were obtained on i) d 0 (weaning), 2, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 and subsequently on ii) d 0 (housing), 2, 7, 14 and 21 for physiological, haematological and immunological measurements. Results: Post-weaning, concentration of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone were unchanged (P > 0.05). Rectal body temperature, neutrophil number and neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio increased (P < 0.01) on d 2 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Lymphocyte and neutrophil number decreased (P < 0.05) on d 2 to 7 and d 7 to 21, respectively, compared with pre-weaning baseline. Interferon-γ production decreased (P < 0.05) on d 2 compared with pre-weaning baseline. An increase (P < 0.05) in acute phase proteins, fibrinogen and haptoglobin was evident on d 2 to 35 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Concentration of glucose increased on d 2 to 28, whereas non-esterified fatty acid decreased on d 2 to 35 compared with pre-weaning baseline. Post-housing, concentrations of cortisol, rectal body temperature, total leukocyte number, and glucose were unchanged (P > 0.05). On d 2 post-housing, neutrophil number and neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio increased (P < 0.05), whereas lymphocyte number and concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone, fibrinogen and non-esterified fatty acid decreased (P < 0.05) compared with pre-housing baseline. Concentration of haptoglobin increased (P < 0.05) on d 14 to 21 post-housing. Conclusions: A transitory increase in neutrophil number and decrease in lymphocyte number, increased neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio coupled with decreased interferon-γ production, and increased concentration of acute phase proteins indicate a stress response in cows post-weaning, whereas post-housing, changes were less marked.
• #### Characterization and adaptation of Caldicellulosiruptor strains to higher sugar concentrations, targeting enhanced hydrogen production from lignocellulosic hydrolysates

Abstract Background The members of the genus Caldicellulosiruptor have the potential for future integration into a biorefinery system due to their capacity to generate hydrogen close to the theoretical limit of 4 mol H2/mol hexose, use a wide range of sugars and can grow on numerous lignocellulose hydrolysates. However, members of this genus are unable to survive in high sugar concentrations, limiting their ability to grow on more concentrated hydrolysates, thus impeding their industrial applicability. In this study five members of this genus, C. owensensis, C. kronotskyensis, C. bescii, C. acetigenus and C. kristjanssonii, were developed to tolerate higher sugar concentrations through an adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) process. The developed mixed population C. owensensis CO80 was further studied and accompanied by the development of a kinetic model based on Monod kinetics to quantitatively compare it with the parental strain. Results Mixed populations of Caldicellulosiruptor tolerant to higher glucose concentrations were obtained with C. owensensis adapted to grow up to 80 g/L glucose; other strains in particular C. kristjanssonii demonstrated a greater restriction to adaptation. The C. owensensis CO80 mixed population was further studied and demonstrated the ability to grow in glucose concentrations up to 80 g/L glucose, but with reduced volumetric hydrogen productivities ( $$Q_{{{\text{H}}_{2} }}$$ Q H 2 ) and incomplete sugar conversion at elevated glucose concentrations. In addition, the carbon yield decreased with elevated concentrations of glucose. The ability of the mixed population C. owensensis CO80 to grow in high glucose concentrations was further described with a kinetic growth model, which revealed that the critical sugar concentration of the cells increased fourfold when cultivated at higher concentrations. When co-cultured with the adapted C. saccharolyticus G5 mixed culture at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 20 h, C. owensensis constituted only 0.09–1.58% of the population in suspension. Conclusions The adaptation of members of the Caldicellulosiruptor genus to higher sugar concentrations established that the ability to develop improved strains via ALE is species dependent, with C. owensensis adapted to grow on 80 g/L, whereas C. kristjanssonii could only be adapted to 30 g/L glucose. Although C. owensensis CO80 was adapted to a higher sugar concentration, this mixed population demonstrated reduced $$Q_{{{\text{H}}_{2} }}$$ Q H 2 with elevated glucose concentrations. This would indicate that while ALE permits adaptation to elevated sugar concentrations, this approach does not result in improved fermentation performances at these higher sugar concentrations. Moreover, the observation that planktonic mixed culture of CO80 was outcompeted by an adapted C. saccharolyticus, when co-cultivated in continuous mode, indicates that the robustness of CO80 mixed culture should be improved for industrial application.
• #### Characterization of the bovine salivary gland transcriptome associated with Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis experimental challenge

Background Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), the etiologic agent of Johne’s disease is spread between cattle via the fecal-oral route, yet the functional changes in the salivary gland associated with infection remain uncharacterized. In this study, we hypothesized that experimental challenge with MAP would induce stable changes in gene expression patterns in the salivary gland that may shed light on the mucosal immune response as well as the regional variation in immune capacity of this extensive gland. Holstein-Friesian cattle were euthanized 33 months’ post oral challenge with MAP strain CIT003 and both the parotid and mandibular salivary glands were collected from healthy control (n = 5) and MAP exposed cattle (n = 5) for histopathological and transcriptomic analysis. Results A total of 205, 21, 61, and 135 genes were significantly differentially expressed between control and MAP exposed cattle in dorsal mandibular (M1), ventral mandibular (M2), dorsal parotid (P1) and ventral parotid salivary glands (P2), respectively. Expression profiles varied between the structurally divergent parotid and mandibular gland sections which was also reflected in the enriched biological pathways identified. Changes in gene expression associated with MAP exposure were detected with significantly elevated expression of BoLA DR-ALPHA, BOLA-DRB3 and complement factors in MAP exposed cattle. In contrast, reduced expression of genes such as polymeric immunoglobin receptor (PIGR), TNFSF13, and the antimicrobial genes lactoferrin (LF) and lactoperoxidase (LPO) was detected in MAP exposed animals. Conclusions This first analysis of the transcriptomic profile of salivary glands in cattle adds an important layer to our understanding of salivary gland immune function. Transcriptomic changes associated with MAP exposure have been identified including reduced LF and LPO. These critical antimicrobial and immunoregulatory proteins are known to be secreted into saliva and their downregulation may contribute to disease susceptibility. Future work will focus on the validation of their expression levels in saliva from additional cattle of known infection status as a potential strategy to augment disease diagnosis.
• #### Choice of assembly software has a critical impact on virome characterisation

Background The viral component of microbial communities plays a vital role in driving bacterial diversity, facilitating nutrient turnover and shaping community composition. Despite their importance, the vast majority of viral sequences are poorly annotated and share little or no homology to reference databases. As a result, investigation of the viral metagenome (virome) relies heavily on de novo assembly of short sequencing reads to recover compositional and functional information. Metagenomic assembly is particularly challenging for virome data, often resulting in fragmented assemblies and poor recovery of viral community members. Despite the essential role of assembly in virome analysis and difficulties posed by these data, current assembly comparisons have been limited to subsections of virome studies or bacterial datasets. Design This study presents the most comprehensive virome assembly comparison to date, featuring 16 metagenomic assembly approaches which have featured in human virome studies. Assemblers were assessed using four independent virome datasets, namely, simulated reads, two mock communities, viromes spiked with a known phage and human gut viromes. Results Assembly performance varied significantly across all test datasets, with SPAdes (meta) performing consistently well. Performance of MIRA and VICUNA varied, highlighting the importance of using a range of datasets when comparing assembly programs. It was also found that while some assemblers addressed the challenges of virome data better than others, all assemblers had limitations. Low read coverage and genomic repeats resulted in assemblies with poor genome recovery, high degrees of fragmentation and low-accuracy contigs across all assemblers. These limitations must be considered when setting thresholds for downstream analysis and when drawing conclusions from virome data.
• #### Comparative analysis of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii genomes shows a high level of genome plasticity and warrants separation into new species-level taxa

Background Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is a ubiquitous member of the human gut microbiome, constituting up to 15% of the total bacteria in the human gut. Substantial evidence connects decreased levels of F. prausnitzii with the onset and progression of certain forms of inflammatory bowel disease, which has been attributed to its anti-inflammatory potential. Two phylogroups of F. prausnitzii have been identified, with a decrease in phylogroup I being a more sensitive marker of intestinal inflammation. Much of the genomic and physiological data available to date was collected using phylogroup II strains. Little analysis of F. prausnitzii genomes has been performed so far and genetic differences between phylogroups I and II are poorly understood. Results In this study we sequenced 11 additional F. prausnitzii genomes and performed comparative genomics to investigate intraspecies diversity, functional gene complement and the mobilome of 31 high-quality draft and complete genomes. We reveal a very low level of average nucleotide identity among F. prausnitzii genomes and a high level of genome plasticity. Two genomogroups can be separated based on differences in functional gene complement, albeit that this division does not fully agree with separation based on conserved gene phylogeny, highlighting the importance of horizontal gene transfer in shaping F. prausnitzii genomes. The difference between the two genomogroups is mainly in the complement of genes associated with catabolism of carbohydrates (such as a predicted sialidase gene in genomogroup I) and amino acids, as well as defense mechanisms. Conclusions Based on the combination of ANI of genomic sequences, phylogenetic analysis of core proteomes and functional differences we propose to separate the species F. prausnitzii into two new species level taxa: F. prausnitzii sensu stricto (neotype strain A2–165T = DSM 17677T = JCM 31915T) and F. moorei sp. nov. (type strain ATCC 27768T = NCIMB 13872T).
• #### Comparative analysis of Lactobacillus gasseri from Chinese subjects reveals a new species-level taxa

Background Lactobacillus gasseri as a probiotic has history of safe consumption is prevalent in infants and adults gut microbiota to maintain gut homeostasis. Results In this study, to explore the genomic diversity and mine potential probiotic characteristics of L. gasseri, 92 strains of L. gasseri were isolated from Chinese human feces and identified based on 16 s rDNA sequencing, after draft genomes sequencing, further average nucleotide identity (ANI) value and phylogenetic analysis reclassified them as L. paragasseri (n = 79) and L. gasseri (n = 13), respectively. Their pan/core-genomes were determined, revealing that L. paragasseri had an open pan-genome. Comparative analysis was carried out to identify genetic features, and the results indicated that 39 strains of L. paragasseri harboured Type II-A CRISPR-Cas system while 12 strains of L. gasseri contained Type I-E and II-A CRISPR-Cas systems. Bacteriocin operons and the number of carbohydrate-active enzymes were significantly different between the two species. Conclusions This is the first time to study pan/core-genome of L. gasseri and L. paragasseri, and compare their genetic diversity, and all the results provided better understating on genetics of the two species.
• #### Comparative and functional genomics of the Lactococcus lactis taxon; insights into evolution and niche adaptation

Background Lactococcus lactis is among the most widely studied lactic acid bacterial species due to its long history of safe use and economic importance to the dairy industry, where it is exploited as a starter culture in cheese production. Results In the current study, we report on the complete sequencing of 16 L. lactis subsp. lactis and L. lactis subsp. cremoris genomes. The chromosomal features of these 16 L. lactis strains in conjunction with 14 completely sequenced, publicly available lactococcal chromosomes were assessed with particular emphasis on discerning the L. lactis subspecies division, evolution and niche adaptation. The deduced pan-genome of L. lactis was found to be closed, indicating that the representative data sets employed for this analysis are sufficient to fully describe the genetic diversity of the taxon. Conclusions Niche adaptation appears to play a significant role in governing the genetic content of each L. lactis subspecies, while (differential) genome decay and redundancy in the dairy niche is also highlighted.
• #### Comparative genomic and metabolic analysis of three Lactobacillus paracasei cheese isolates reveals considerable genomic differences in strains from the same niche

Background Strains of Lactobacillus paracasei are present in many diverse environments, including dairy and plant materials and the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. Their adaptation to various niches is correlated to intra-species diversity at the genomic and metabolic level. In this study, we compared the genome sequences of three L. paracasei strains isolated from mature Cheddar cheeses, two of which (DPC4206 and DPC4536) shared the same genomic fingerprint by PFGE, but demonstrated varying metabolic capabilities. Results Genome sizes varied from 2.9 Mbp for DPC2071, to 3.09 Mbp for DPC4206 and 3.08 Mpb for DPC4536. The presence of plasmids was a distinguishing feature between the strains with strain DPC2071 possessing an unusually high number of plasmids (up to 11), while DPC4206 had one plasmid and DPC4536 harboured no plasmids. Each of the strains possessed specific genes not present in the other two analysed strains. The three strains differed in their abundance of sugar-converting genes, and in the types of sugars that could be used as energy sources. Genes involved in the metabolism of sugars not usually connected with the dairy niche, such as myo-inositol and pullulan were also detected, but strains did not utilise these sugars. The genetic content of the three strains differed in regard to specific genes for arginine and sulfur-containing amino acid metabolism and genes contributing to resistance to heavy metal ions. In addition, variability in the presence of phage remnants and phage protection systems was evident. Conclusions The findings presented in this study confirm a considerable level of heterogeneity of Lactobacillus paracasei strains, even between strains isolated from the same niche.
• #### Comparative genomic identification and validation of β-defensin genes in the Ovis aries genome

Background β-defensins are small, cationic, antimicrobial peptides found in species across the plant and animal kingdoms. In addition to microbiocidal activity, roles in immunity as well as reproduction have more recently been documented. β-defensin genes in Ovis aries (domestic sheep) have been poorly annotated, having been identified only by automatic gene prediction algorithms. The objective of this study was to use a comparative genomics approach to identify and characterise the β-defensin gene repertoire in sheep using the bovine genome as the primary reference. Results All 57 currently predicted bovine β-defensin genes were used to find orthologous sequences in the most recent version of the sheep genome (OAR v4.0). Forty three genes were found to have close genomic matches (>70% similarity) between sheep and cattle. The orthologous genes were located in four clusters across the genome, with 4 genes on chromosome 2, 19 genes on chromosome 13, 5 genes on chromosome 20 and 15 genes on chromosome 26. Conserved gene order for the β-defensin genes was apparent in the two smaller clusters, although gene order was reversed on chromosome 2, suggesting an inversion between sheep and cattle. Complete conservation of gene order was also observed for chromosome 13 β-defensin orthologs. More structural differences were apparent between chromosome 26 genes and the orthologous region in the bovine reference genome, which is known to be copy-number variable. In this cluster, the Defensin-beta 1 (DEFB1) gene matched to eleven Bovine Neutrophil beta-Defensin (BNBD) genes on chromosome 27 with almost uniform similarity, as well as to tracheal, enteric and lingual anti-microbial peptides (TAP, EAP and LAP), suggesting that annotation of the bovine reference sequence is still incomplete. qPCR was used to profile the expression of 34 β-defensin genes, representing each of the four clusters, in the ram reproductive tract. Distinct site-specific and differential expression profiles were detected across the reproductive tract of mature rams with preferential β-defensin gene expression in the epididymis, recapitulating observations for orthologous genes in other species. Conclusions This is the first comprehensive analysis of β-defensin genes encoded by the ovine reference sequence, and the first report of an expanded repertoire of β-defensin genes in this species. The preferential expression of these genes in the epididymis suggests a role in fertility, possibly providing immunoprotection for sperm within the female reproductive tract.
• #### Comparative genomics of lactic acid bacteria reveals a niche-specific gene set

Background: The recently sequenced genome of Lactobacillus helveticus DPC4571 1 revealed a dairy organism with significant homology (75% of genes are homologous) to a probiotic bacteria Lb. acidophilus NCFM 2. This led us to hypothesise that a group of genes could be determined which could define an organism's niche. Results: Taking 11 fully sequenced lactic acid bacteria (LAB) as our target, (3 dairy LAB, 5 gut LAB and 3 multi-niche LAB), we demonstrated that the presence or absence of certain genes involved in sugar metabolism, the proteolytic system, and restriction modification enzymes were pivotal in suggesting the niche of a strain. We identified 9 niche specific genes, of which 6 are dairy specific and 3 are gut specific. The dairy specific genes identified in Lactobacillus helveticus DPC4571 were lhv_1161 and lhv_1171, encoding components of the proteolytic system, lhv_1031 lhv_1152, lhv_1978 and lhv_0028 encoding restriction endonuclease genes, while bile salt hydrolase genes lba_0892 and lba_1078, and the sugar metabolism gene lba_1689 from Lb. acidophilus NCFM were identified as gut specific genes. Conclusion: Comparative analysis revealed that if an organism had homologs to the dairy specific geneset, it probably came from a dairy environment, whilst if it had homologs to gut specific genes, it was highly likely to be of intestinal origin. We propose that this "barcode" of 9 genes will be a useful initial guide to researchers in the LAB field to indicate an organism's ability to occupy a specific niche.
• #### Compared to casein, bovine lactoferrin reduces plasma leptin and corticosterone and affects hypothalamic gene expression without altering weight gain or fat mass in high fat diet fed C57/BL6J mice

Background Several studies in both humans and rodents have examined the use of lactoferrin as a dietary solution to weight gain and visceral fat accretion and have shown promising results in the short term (up to 7 weeks). This study examined the effects of giving lactoferrin over a longer period of time. Methods For 13 weeks, male C57/BL6J mice were given a diet containing 10 % kJ fat and 20 % kJ casein (LFD) or a diet with 45 % kJ fat and either 20 % kJ casein (HFD) or 20 % kJ lactoferrin (HFD + Lac). Physiological, metabolic, and biochemical parameters were investigated. Gene expression was investigated by Real-Time PCR and microarray. All data was assessed using t-test, ANOVA or ANCOVA. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis was used to interpret microarray data and assess the impact on gene sets with common biological roles. Results By the end of the trial, HFD + Lac fed mice did not alter energy balance, body composition, bodyweight, or weight gain when compared to the HFD group. Notably, there were no changes in subcutaneous or epididymal adipose leptin mRNA levels between high fat diet groups, however plasma leptin was significantly reduced in the HFD + Lac compared to HFD group (P < 0.05) suggesting reduced leptin secretion. Global microarray analysis of the hypothalamus indicate an overall reduction in gene sets associated with feeding behaviour (P < 0.01) and an up-regulation of gene sets associated with retinol metabolism in the HFD + Lac group compared to the HFD group (P < 0.01). Genes in the latter catergory have been shown to impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Notably, plasma corticosterone levels in the HFD + Lac group were reduced compared to the HFD fed mice (P < 0.05). Conclusions The data suggests that prolonged feeding of full-length dietary lactoferrin, as part of a high fat diet, does not have a beneficial impact on weight gain when compared to casein. However, its impact on leptin secretion and accompanying changes in hypothalamic gene expression may underlie how this dietary protein alters plasma corticosterone. The lactoferrin fed mouse model could be used to identify leptin and corticosterone regulated genes in the hypothalamus without the confounding effects of body weight change.
• #### Comparing the immune response to a novel intranasal nanoparticle PLGA vaccine and a commercial BPI3V vaccine in dairy calves

Background There is a need to improve vaccination against respiratory pathogens in calves by stimulation of local immunity at the site of pathogen entry at an early stage in life. Ideally such a vaccine preparation would not be inhibited by the maternally derived antibodies. Additionally, localized immune response at the site of infection is also crucial to control infection at the site of entry of virus. The present study investigated the response to an intranasal bovine parainfluenza 3 virus (BPI3V) antigen preparation encapsulated in PLGA (poly dl-lactic-co-glycolide) nanoparticles in the presence of pre-existing anti-BPI3V antibodies in young calves and comparing it to a commercially available BPI3V respiratory vaccine. Results There was a significant (P < 0.05) increase in BPI3V-specific IgA in the nasal mucus of the BPI3V nanoparticle vaccine group alone. Following administration of the nanoparticle vaccine an early immune response was induced that continued to grow until the end of study and was not observed in the other treatment groups. Virus specific serum IgG response to both the nanoparticle vaccine and commercial live attenuated vaccine showed a significant (P < 0.05) rise over the period of study. However, the cell mediated immune response observed didn’t show any significant rise in any of the treatment groups. Conclusion Calves administered the intranasal nanoparticle vaccine induced significantly greater mucosal IgA responses, compared to the other treatment groups. This suggests an enhanced, sustained mucosal-based immunological response to the BPI3V nanoparticle vaccine in the face of pre-existing antibodies to BPI3V, which are encouraging and potentially useful characteristics of a candidate vaccine. However, ability of nanoparticle vaccine in eliciting cell mediated immune response needs further investigation. More sustained local mucosal immunity induced by nanoparticle vaccine has obvious potential if it translates into enhanced protective immunity in the face of virus outbreak.
• #### Comparison of four commercially available ELISA kits for diagnosis of Fasciola hepatica in Irish cattle

Background Fasciola hepatica is a liver parasite of mammals and it results in poor welfare outcomes and economic losses in ruminants. While faecal egg count is the test most commonly used for diagnosis, it does not indicate presence of migrating immature stages. Serological techniques increase sensitivity at all stages of the liver fluke infection. The aim of this study was to compare four commercially available ELISA tests for the diagnosis of F. hepatica. For this purpose, we tested three sample types; (i) known F. hepatica status sera from an experimental infection for the comparison of sensitivities and specificities, (ii) sera from pre- and post-flukicide-treated (albendazole, closantel, nitroxynil and triclabendazole) beef cattle to contrast the differences of seropositivity before and after treatment, and (iii) bulk tank milk samples from dairy herds sampled during high and low F. hepatica exposure periods for assessing seasonal variations with the four tests available. Samples were tested using ELISA kits supplied by four manufacturers (Ildana Biotech, IDEXX, Svanova, and Bio-X). Samples were analysed simultaneously and in duplicate. Results In the control population Ildana, IDEXX and Bio-X presented 100% sensitivity (Se) and specificity (Sp), Svanovir presented a Se of 59% and a Sp of 96%. In flukicide-treated beef cattle, kits highlighted decreasing antibody levels 90 days post-treatment in variable degrees. Finally, bulk milk showed a significant decrease in ELISA value between high and low fluke exposure periods with all tests studied. Conclusions Se and Sp found in the present study, confirm that Ildana, IDEXX and Bio-X are accurate for the detection of F. hepatica exposure in Irish cattle. Svanovir Se and Sp in this population, indicate that a larger study is necessary to confirm this test characteristic in Irish herds. In post-treatment use, Bio-X showed a consistent and significant decrease of ELISA value in all groups treated, denoting to be a reliable tool for assessing treatment effect at 90 days post-treatment. Finally, all tests showed to be a reliable tool for the F. hepatica monitoring of high and low exposure seasons, using bulk tank milk samples.