Journal of Dairy Research

Research Article

Retinol binding protein 4 in dairy cows: its presence in colostrum and alteration in plasma during fasting, inflammation, and the peripartum period

Mabrouk A Abd Eldaima1, Akihiro Kamikawaa1, Mohamed M Solimana1, Mohamed M Ahmeda1, Yuko Okamatsu-Oguraa1, Akira Teraoa1, Toru Miyamotoa2 and Kazuhiro Kimuraa1 c1

a1 Laboratory of Biochemistry, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Japan

a2 Production Disease Team, National Institute of Animal Health, Japan


Retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) is a plasma protein involved in retinol transportation, and recent evidence in rodents suggests that RBP4 is also a metabolic regulator that modifies insulin sensitivity. To assess how RBP4 levels are regulated in ruminants, we determined the RBP4 concentrations in bovine plasma and milk using Western blot analysis. Plasma RBP4 levels in non-pregnant non-lactating (control) cows were around 45 μg/ml, which were sustained during 60-h fasting, but decreased significantly 4 h after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration. Basal plasma retinol concentration was around 30 μg/dl, but this decreased to approximately one-third and one-half of these values during fasting and 8 h after LPS challenge, respectively. Plasma RBP4 and retinol levels in cows 3–6 d before parturition were comparable to those of the controls. However, on the day of parturition both were significantly decreased and had returned to basal levels by two weeks after calving. Interestingly, RBP4 was clearly detected in colostrum (16·4±5·6 μg/ml) but was only faintly detected in milk from cows at 7 d and 15 d after calving. Retinol concentrations in colostrum were almost 10-fold higher than those in plasma, while those in milk were comparable to those in plasma. These results suggest that RBP4 and retinol levels are independently regulated under physiological and pathophysiological conditions and that RBP4, like retinol, is transferred from maternal stores to calves through colostrum.

(Received May 26 2009)

(Accepted August 04 2009)

(Online publication September 29 2009)


c1 For correspondence; e-mail: