Increased expression of MAIL, a cytokine-associated nuclear protein, in the prodromal stage of black walnut-induced laminitis


Departments of Clinical Science, 100 McAdory Hall, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Alabama 36849, USA


Reasons for performing study: The mediators and signalling cascades important in the initiation of laminitis remain unclear. We therefore wanted to explore the genes and overall signalling mechanisms that play an important role in the developmental stage of laminitis.

Objective: To use a broad genomic screening technique to identify novel genes that are differentially regulated in the equine lamellae during the developmental period of laminitis.

Methods: Differential mRNA display (DRD) was performed to discover regulated genes, and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) was then used to evaluate lamellar mRNA levels of a regulated gene (MAIL) and mediators related to that gene (IL-1β and IL-6) in control horses (n = 5) and horses administered black walnut extract (BWE; n = 5).

Results: Using DRD, MAIL was identified as a regulated gene. RT-qPCR indicated a 4-fold increase in expression of the MAIL mRNA in BWE lamellae compared to controls. A 30-fold increase in IL-1β, and a 160-fold difference in IL-6 mRNA expression was present in BWE lamellae. Differences in MAIL, IL-1β and IL-6 mRNA expression were statistically significant between groups (P<0.05).

Conclusions and potential relevance: The data strongly support a role for inflammatory cytokines in the developmental stages of laminitis, possibly inducing the vascular and metabolic alterations reported to occur in the affected digit. These results potentially support the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in horses at risk of laminitis, and warrant further investigation of the link between systemic disease processes associated with laminitis and the reported digital inflammation.