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SS Block, WR Butler, RA Ehrhardt, AW Bell, ME Van Amburgh, and YR Boisclair

Dairy cows suffer from an intense energy deficit at parturition due to the onset of copious milk synthesis and depressed appetite. Despite this deficit, maternal metabolism is almost completely devoted to the support of mammary metabolism. Evidence from rodents suggests that, during periods of nutritional insufficiency, a reduction in plasma leptin serves to co-ordinate energy metabolism. As an initial step to determine if leptin plays this role in periparturient dairy cows, changes in the plasma concentration of leptin were measured during the period from 35 days before to 56 days after parturition. The plasma concentration of leptin was reduced by approximately 50% after parturition and remained depressed during lactation despite a gradual improvement in energy balance; corresponding changes occurred in the abundance of leptin mRNA in white adipose tissue. To determine whether negative energy balance caused this reduction in circulating leptin, cows were either milked or not milked after parturition. Absence of milk removal eliminated the energy deficit of early lactation, and doubled the plasma concentration of leptin. The plasma concentration of leptin was positively correlated with plasma concentrations of insulin and glucose, and negatively correlated with plasma concentrations of growth hormone and non-esterified fatty acids. In conclusion, the energy deficit of periparturient cows causes a sustained reduction in plasma leptin. This reduction could benefit early lactating dairy cows by promoting a faster increase in feed intake and by diverting energy from non-vital functions such as reproduction.

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J Wook Kim, RP Rhoads, SS Block, TR Overton, SJ Frank, and YR Boisclair

At parturition, dairy cows experience a 70% reduction in plasma IGF-I. This reduction coincides with decreased abundance of GHR1A, the liver-specific transcript of the growth hormone receptor (GHR) gene, suggesting impaired growth hormone-dependent synthesis of IGF-I. It is not immediately obvious that the periparturient reduction in GHR1A is sufficient to reduce hepatic GHR abundance. This is because approximately 50% of total GHR mRNA abundance in prepartum liver is accounted for by ubiquitously expressed transcripts which remain collectively unchanged at parturition. In addition, the possibility that parturition alters GHR expression in other growth hormone target tissue has not been examined. To address these questions, we measured GHR gene expression and GHR protein in liver and skeletal muscle of four dairy cows on days -35,+3 and+56 (relative to parturition on day 0). Hepatic GHR abundance and GHR1A transcripts were lower on day+3 than on day -35 and returned to late pregnancy value by day+56. Additional studies in two other groups of cows indicated that the hepatic levels of the GHR protein recovered substantially within 10 days after parturition. These changes occurred without variation in the abundance of HNF4, a liver-enriched transcription factor activating the promoter responsible for GHR1A synthesis. In contrast to liver, levels of GHR gene expression and GHR protein were identical on days -35,+3 and+56 in skeletal muscle. These data suggest a role for the GHR in regulating tissue-specific changes in growth hormone responsiveness in periparturient dairy cows.