Hematological and gene co-expression network analyses of high-risk beef cattle defines immunological mechanisms and biological complexes involved in bovine respiratory disease and weight gain. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bovine respiratory disease (BRD), the leading disease complex in beef cattle production systems, remains highly elusive regarding diagnostics and disease prediction. Previous research has employed cellular and molecular techniques to describe hematological and gene expression variation that coincides with BRD development. Here, we utilized weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) to leverage total gene expression patterns from cattle at arrival and generate hematological and clinical trait associations to describe mechanisms that may predict BRD development. Gene expression counts of previously published RNA-Seq data from 23 cattle (2017; n = 11 Healthy, n = 12 BRD) were used to construct gene co-expression modules and correlation patterns with complete blood count (CBC) and clinical datasets. Modules were further evaluated for cross-populational preservation of expression with RNA-Seq data from 24 cattle in an independent population (2019; n = 12 Healthy, n = 12 BRD). Genes within well-preserved modules were subject to functional enrichment analysis for significant Gene Ontology terms and pathways. Genes which possessed high module membership and association with BRD development, regardless of module preservation ("hub genes"), were utilized for protein-protein physical interaction network and clustering analyses. Five well-preserved modules of co-expressed genes were identified. One module ("steelblue"), involved in alpha-beta T-cell complexes and Th2-type immunity, possessed significant correlation with increased erythrocytes, platelets, and BRD development. One module ("purple"), involved in mitochondrial metabolism and rRNA maturation, possessed significant correlation with increased eosinophils, fecal egg count per gram, and weight gain over time. Fifty-two interacting hub genes, stratified into 11 clusters, may possess transient function involved in BRD development not previously described in literature. This study identifies co-expressed genes and coordinated mechanisms associated with BRD, which necessitates further investigation in BRD-prediction research.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Scott, M. A., Woolums, A. R., Swiderski, C. E., Finley, A., Perkins, A. D., Nanduri, B., & Karisch, B. B.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Scott, Matthew A||Woolums, Amelia R||Swiderski, Cyprianna E||Finley, Abigail||Perkins, Andy D||Nanduri, Bindu||Karisch, Brandi B

editor list (cited editors)

  • Ruan, J.

publication date

  • January 2022