STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5 in naturally occurring inflammatory lesions of the bovine and ovine mammary gland


Norman Hayward Fund



Research Period


Area of study


Principal investigator: Katherine Hughes


This project aims to better understand the causes of mastitis at a molecular level. This is critical to the development of new mastitis therapies. Current therapy relies heavily on the use of antibiotics, with the incumbent risk of bacterial resistance and reduction in the success of treatment. Results of this work may inform new therapeutic options in the future.   The project is a modest study which represents good value for money, whilst still being planned with a view to maximising output in terms of knowledge, publications, and benefits to farm animals.
This project harnesses the expertise of a veterinary pathologist specialising in mammary gland biology and a clinical farm animal veterinarian familiar with the practical welfare implications of mastitis. This combination represents a unique skills set to ensure delivery of excellent science, with tangible downstream benefits for animal welfare.

How this will be done:

Mastitis, inflammation of the udder, is a major welfare problem for dairy cows and sheep. It is painful for the animal and also results in significant economic losses. Most mastitis in the UK is caused by bacteria and whilst veterinary interventions focus on prevention through good management, many animals still succumb to infection at which point antibiotics are currently a mainstay of therapy.
The Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (or STAT) family are molecular factors which coordinate varied cellular processes, including inflammation, and mammary gland development. Importantly, they are critical in controlling the regression of the mammary gland at the end of lactation (involution), a time when dairy animals are particularly prone to mastitis (dry period mastitis).
This project will examine the expression patterns of three key mammary STATs in clinical samples obtained post mortem from cattle and sheep at varying times during lactation, natural involution, and during mastitis. The project will examine which cells are expressing which type of STAT. This will leadto a better understanding of the pathogenesis of dry period mastitis at a molecular level, and may eventually lead to use of modulators of STAT signalling (currently under development in human medicine) in mastitis therapy.