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Maternal and foetal immune responses of cattle following an experimental challenge with Neospora caninum at day 70 of gestation

Paul M Bartley1*, Stephen E Wright1, Stephen W Maley1, Colin N Macaldowie1, Mintu Nath2, Clare M Hamilton13, Frank Katzer1, David Buxton1 and Elisabeth A Innes1

Author Affiliations

1 Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Midlothian, EH26 0PZ, Scotland, United Kingdom

2 Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, James Clerk Maxwell Building, The King’s Buildings, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, Scotland, United Kingdom

3 Veterinary Sciences Centre, School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

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Veterinary Research 2012, 43:38  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-38

Published: 26 April 2012


The immune responses of pregnant cattle and their foetuses were examined following inoculation on day 70 of gestation either intravenously (iv) (group 1) or subcutaneously (sc) (group 2) with live NC1 strain tachyzoites or with Vero cells (control) (group 3). Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) responses to Neospora antigen and foetal viability were assessed throughout the experiment. Two animals from each group were sacrificed at 14, 28, 42 and 56 days post inoculation (pi). At post mortem, maternal lymph nodes, spleen and PBMC and when possible foetal spleen, thymus and PBMC samples were collected for analysis. Inoculation with NC1 (iv and sc) lead to foetal deaths in all group 1 dams (6/6) and in 3/6 group 2 dams from day 28pi; statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05) increases in cell-mediated immune (CMI) responses including antigen-specific cell proliferation and IFN-γ production as well as increased levels of IL-4, IL-10 and IL-12 were observed in challenged dams compared to the group 3 animals. Lymph node samples from the group 2 animals carrying live foetuses showed greater levels of cellular proliferation as well as significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher levels of IFN-γ compared to the dams in group 2 carrying dead foetuses. Foetal spleen, thymus and PBMC samples demonstrated cellular proliferation as well as IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-10 and IL-12 production following mitogenic stimulation with Con A from day 14pi (day 84 gestation) onwards. This study shows that the generation of robust peripheral and local maternal CMI responses (lymphoproliferation, IFN-γ) may inhibit the vertical transmission of the parasite.