Complementary transcriptomic and proteomic analyses reveal regulatory mechanisms of milk protein production in dairy cows consuming different forages.

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Forage plays a critical role in the milk production of dairy cows; however, the mechanisms regulating bovine milk synthesis in dairy cows fed high forage rations with different basal forage types are not well-understood. In the study, rice straw (RS, low-quality) and alfalfa hay (AH, high-quality) diets were fed to lactating cows to explore how forage quality affected the molecular mechanisms regulating milk production using RNA-seq transcriptomic method with iTRAQ proteomic technique. A total of 554 transcripts (423 increased and 131 decreased) and 517 proteins (231 up-regulated and 286 down-regulated) were differentially expressed in the mammary glands of the two groups. The correlation analysis demonstrated seven proteins (six up-regulated and one down-regulated) had consistent mRNA expression. Functional analysis of the differentially expressed transcripts/proteins suggested that enhanced capacity for energy and fatty acid metabolism, increased protein degradation, reduced protein synthesis, decreased amino acid metabolism and depressed cell growth were related to RS consumption. The results indicated cows consuming RS diets may have had depressed milk protein synthesis because these animals had decreased capacity for protein synthesis, enhanced proteolysis, inefficient energy generation and reduced cell growth. Additional work evaluating RS- and AH-based rations may help better isolate molecular adaptations to low nutrient availability during lactation.