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Recent studies demonstrating a higher incidence of metabolic disorders after calving have challenged the management practice of increasing dietary energy density during the last ~3 wk prepartum. Despite our knowledge at the whole-animal level, the tissue-level mechanisms that are altered in response to feeding management prepartum remain unclear. Our hypothesis was that prepartum body condition score (BCS), in combination with feeding management, plays a central role in the peripartum changes associated with energy balance and inflammatory state. Twenty-eight mid-lactation grazing dairy cows of mixed age and breed were randomly allocated to 1 of 4 treatment groups in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement: 2 prepartum BCS categories (4.0 and 5.0, based on a 10-point scale; BCS4, BCS5) obtained via differential feeding management during late-lactation, and 2 levels of energy intake during the 3 wk preceding calving (75 and 125% of estimated requirements). Subcutaneous adipose tissue was harvested via biopsy at −1, 1, and 4 wk relative to parturition. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to measure mRNA and microRNA (miRNA) expression of targets related to fatty acid metabolism (lipogenesis, lipolysis), adipokine synthesis, and inflammation. Both prepartum BCS and feeding management had a significant effect on mRNA and miRNA expression throughout the peripartum period. Overfed BCS5 cows had the greatest prepartum expression of fatty acid synthase (FASN) and an overall greater expression of leptin (LEP); BCS5 was also associated with greater overall adiponectin (ADIPOQ) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG), whereas overfeeding upregulated expression of proadipogenic miRNA. Higher postpartum expression of chemokine ligand 5 (CCL5) and the cytokines interleukin 6 (IL6) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) was detected in overfed BCS5 cows. Feed-restricted BCS4 cows had the highest overall interleukin 1 (IL1B) expression. Prepartum feed restriction resulted in greater chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) expression. Overall, changes in mRNA expression were consistent with the expression pattern of inflammation-related miRNA. These data shed light on molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of prepartum BCS and feeding management on metabolic and inflammatory status of adipose tissue during the peripartum period. Data support the use of a controlled feed restriction prepartum in optimally conditioned cows, as well as the use of a higher level of dietary energy in under-conditioned cows.


open access article