Effects of Staphylococcus aureus intramammary infection on the expression of estrogen receptor α and progesterone receptor in mammary glands of nonlactating cows administered estradiol and progesterone to stimulate mammary growth.


Dairy Science Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24060. Electronic address: [Email]


Intramammary infections (IMI) are prevalent in nonlactating dairy cattle and are known to alter mammary structure and negatively affect the amount of mammary epithelium in the gland. Mechanisms responsible for the observed changes in mammary growth during an IMI are poorly understood, yet the importance of the key mammogenic hormones driving mammary growth is well recognized. This study's objective was to characterize the expression of estrogen receptor α (ESR1) and progesterone receptor (PGR) in mammary glands stimulated to grow and develop in the presence or absence of an IMI as well as preliminarily characterize myoepithelial cell response to IMI. Mammary growth was stimulated in 18 nonpregnant, nonlactating dairy cows using subcutaneous estradiol and progesterone injections, and 2 culture-negative quarters of each cow were subsequently infused with either saline (n = 18) or Staphylococcus aureus (n = 18). Mammary parenchyma tissues were collected 5 d (n = 9) or 10 d (n = 9) postchallenge and examined using immunofluorescence microscopy to quantify positive nuclei and characterize staining features. There tended to be a greater number of ESR1-positive nuclei observed across 8 random mammary parenchyma fields of view in saline quarters than in Staph. aureus quarters (201 vs. 163 ± 44 nuclei). Saline quarters also contained a greater number of PGR-positive nuclei (520 vs. 440 ± 45 nuclei) and myoepithelial cells (971 vs. 863 ± 48 nuclei) than Staph. aureus-challenged quarters. However, when ESR1, PGR, and myoepithelial nuclei counts were adjusted for Staph. aureus quarters containing less epithelium, differences between quarter treatments abated. The examined ESR1 and PGR staining characteristics were similar between saline and Staph. aureus quarters but were differentially affected by day of tissue collection. Additionally, nuclear staining area of myoepithelial cells was greater in Staph. aureus quarters than in saline quarters. These results indicate that IMI had little effect on the number or staining characteristics of ESR1- or PGR-positive nuclei relative to epithelial area, but myoepithelial cells appear to be affected by IMI and the associated inflammation in nonlactating mammary glands that were stimulated to grow rapidly using mammogenic hormones. Accordingly, reductions in mammary epithelium in affected glands are not suspected to be resultant of alterations in the number or staining characteristics of ESR1- or PGR-positive mammary epithelial cells.


dry cow,heifer,mammary growth,mastitis,myoepithelial cell,