Bovine leukemia virus alters growth properties and casein synthesis in mammary epithelial cells

D. D. Motton, G. C. Buehring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) is widespread in US dairy herds, yet only about 1% of infected cattle develop bovine leukosis and are culled from the herd. A major concern is whether BLV infection of dairy cows alters milk yield. Although several studies have examined the effect of BLV on milk production in vivo, the results were inconclusive. No in vitro studies have been done. The discovery of BLV in mammary epithelial cells (MEC) of infected cows raises the possibility that the virus could affect these cells directly. The purpose of this study was to use an in vitro system to determine if BLV could alter milk yield by altering cell number and/or milk production per cell. A short-term cell line established from the MEC of a BLV-negative cow, and a proven casein-producer mouse cell line, Comma D, were stably transfected with a plasmid containing the entire BLV genome. Untransfected parental lines served as negative controls. The BLV-containing bovine MEC line has a reduced population-doubling time, higher saturation density, and increased longevity. The Comma D line is an already-transformed cell line, and growth properties did not change after transfection with BLV. Under appropriate differentiation conditions, both the bovine and mouse MEC transfected with BLV displayed decreased casein production and mRNA synthesis compared with control cell lines without BLV. Our results suggest that effects of BLV infection on milk production may not be related solely to overall animal health but may also be mediated directly at a cellular level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2826-2838
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bovine leukemia virus
  • Casein
  • Mammary epithelial cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Food Science


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