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Open Access Research article

Parity-dependent association between TNF-α and LTF gene polymorphisms and clinical mastitis in dairy cattle

Katarzyna Wojdak-Maksymiec1*, Joanna Szyda2 and Tomasz Strabel3

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Biotechnology and Husbandry, Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, ul. Doktora Judyma 6, 71-466 Szczecin, Poland

2 Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Kozuchowska 7, 51-631 Wroclaw, Poland

3 Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wolynska 33, 60-637 Poznan, Poland

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:114  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-114

Published: 11 June 2013



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.

Mastitis; Tumor necrosis factor; Lactoferrin; Immunity; Inflamm-ageing