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FGF-21: promising biomarker for detecting ketosis in dairy cows


The objective of this study was to investigate the measurement of serum fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF-21), a protein mainly synthesized by the liver, as a sensitive biomarker for diagnosis of ketosis in dairy cows. Ninety Holstein–Friesian dairy cows (60 healthy and 30 ketosis cases) were selected and divided into a Ketosis group (K), and a Control group (C). We measured serum FGF-21 and other biochemical parameters by commercial ELISA kits. In a combined population of all 90 cows, we found that serum FGF-21 level was lower (P < 0.001) in cows suffering from ketosis. When the β-hydroxybutyric acid (BHBA) level increased over 1.2 mmol/L, the FGF-21 level tended to decline below 300.85 pg/ml. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC-ROC) for serum FGF-21 for diagnosis of fatty liver was 0.952–0.025 [95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.904, 1.000] which was higher than the AUC-ROC for glucose (Glc) and other tested parameters. We concluded that FGF-21 could be a diagnostic parameter in the evaluation and auxiliary diagnosis of changes in the energy metabolism state, and serum FGF-21 measurement would have a considerable clinical impact and lead to greater profitability in the dairy industry.

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This research was supported by National Nature Science Foundation of China (31372625), National Key Technology Support Program (2013BAD21B01), The Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation, China (141021), and New Century Excellent Talents in University (1252-NCET-003). I would like to thank Thomas A. Gavin, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, for help with editing the English in this paper.

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Correspondence to Chuang Xu.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Chuang Xu and Qiushi Xu contributed equally to this work.

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Xu, C., Xu, Q., Chen, Y. et al. FGF-21: promising biomarker for detecting ketosis in dairy cows. Vet Res Commun 40, 49–54 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11259-015-9650-5

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  • Serum FGF-21
  • Ketosis
  • Blood metabolites
  • Diagnosis