Ruminal Infusions of Cobalt EDTA Modify Milk Fatty Acid Composition via Decreases in Fatty Acid Desaturation and Altered Gene Expression in the Mammary Gland of Lactating Cows1-3

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Intravenous or ruminal infusion of lithium salt of cobalt EDTA (Co-EDTA) or cobalt-acetate alters milk fat composition in cattle, but the mechanisms involved are not known.


The present study evaluated the effect of ruminal Co-EDTA infusion on milk FA composition, mammary lipid metabolism, and mammary lipogenic gene expression.


For the experiment, 4 cows in midlactation and fitted with rumen cannulae were used in a 4 × 4 Latin square with 28-d periods. Co-EDTA was administered in the rumen to supply 0, 1.5, 3.0, or 4.5 g Co/d over an 18-d interval with a 10-d washout between experimental periods. Milk production was recorded daily, and milk FA composition was determined on alternate days. Mammary tissue was biopsied on day 16, and arteriovenous differences of circulating lipid fractions and FA uptake across the mammary gland were measured on day 18.


Co-EDTA had no effect on intake, proportions of rumen volatile FA, or milk production but caused dose-dependent changes in milk FA composition. Alterations in milk fat composition were evident within 3 d of infusion and characterized by linear or quadratic decreases (P < 0.05) in FAs containing a cis-9 double bond, an increase in 4:0 and 16:0, and linear decreases in milk 8:0, 10:0, 12:0, and 14:0 concentrations. Co-EDTA progressively decreased (P < 0.05) the stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD)-catalyzed desaturation of FAs in the mammary gland by up to 72% but had no effect on mammary SCD1 mRNA or SCD protein abundance. Changes in milk FA composition were accompanied by altered expression of specific genes involved in de novo FA and triacylglycerol synthesis.


Ruminal infusion of Co-EDTA alters milk FA composition in cattle via a mechanism that involves decreases in the desaturation of FAs synthesized de novo or extracted from blood and alterations in mammary lipogenic gene expression, without affecting milk fat yield.

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