This study investigated the association of copper levels and monocyte plasticity between M1 (CD14+ CD16−) and M2 (CD14− CD16++) phenotypes. Five samples of female bovine PBMCs were incubated in 0, 4, 8 and 16 μM copper and stimulated (PPD-A, TLR- 2 ligand (Pam3CSK4), or media alone) before they were washed and stained for cell surface expression analysis by flow cytometry. M1 function was measured through nitric oxide production using a Griess assay. Flow cytometry analysis showed a significant reduction in viability with increased copper (p < 0.001). Increasing copper had a significant impact on CD14 expression (p = 0.026) and in cows older than 4 years copper levels positively affected CD14 expression (p = 0.001), whereas in animals of four years or younger, Cu did not affect the CD14 expression (p = 0.701 and 0.939, respectively). CD14 expression affected both CD16 expression and NO production. For CD16 expression, there was a further significant negative effect of copper levels in cows older than 4 years, NO was not affected by varying copper levels. In our small sample, monocytes in the presence of a higher copper environment showed a stronger M1 support for better cellular immunity which might contain intracellular infections more effectively. To test this, a randomised clinical trial will be required to determine whether copper supplementation could prevent progression to Johne’s disease in MAP infected cows.
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