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The effect of chronic, mild heat stress on metabolic changes of nutrition and adaptations in rumen papillae of lactating dairy cows

ABSTRACTGlobal warming and accompanying high ambient temperatures reduce feed intake of dairy cows and shift the blood flow from the core of the body to the periphery. As a result, hypoxia may occur in the digestive tract accompanied by disruption of the intestinal barrier, local endotoxemia and inflammation, and altered nutrient absorption. However, whether the barrier of the rumen, like the intestine, is affected by ambient heat has not been studied so far. Lactating Holstein dairy cows were subjected to heat stress at 28°C (temperature-humidity index = 76; n = 5) with ad libitum feed intake or to thermoneutral conditions at 15°C (temperature-humidity index = 60; n = 5) and pair-feeding to heat-stressed animals for a total of 4 d. Gas exchange and feed intake behavior were measured in a respiration chamber, and rumen epithelia were taken after slaughter. Heat stress significantly reduced meal size and whole-body fat oxidation but increased meal frequency and carbohydrate oxidation. The mRNA expression of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and tight junction proteins and the phosphorylation of TLR4 downstream targets (interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 4, stress-activated protein kinase, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, and nuclear factor k-B) in the rumen epithelium were not affected by heat. The proteomics approach revealed increased expression of rumen epithelium proteins involved in the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and insulin signaling pathways in heat-stressed cows. Also, proteins involved in chaperone-mediated folding of proteins were upregulated, whereas those involved in antioxidant defense system were downregulated. Further, we found evidence for increased carbohydrate phosphorylation accompanied with an increased flux of carbohydrates through the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway, providing substrates for protein glycosylation. In conclusion, the mild heat stress did not induce barrier dysfunction or inflammatory responses in the rumen epithelium of dairy cows, probably because of adaptations in feed intake behavior and defense mechanisms at the tissue level.

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