Equine laminitis is a devastating disease that causes severe pain in afflicted horses and places a major economic burden on the horse industry. In acute laminitis, the disintegration of the dermal-epidermal junction can cause the third phalanx to detach from the hoof wall, leaving the horse unable to bear weight on the affected limbs. Horses that survive the acute phase transition into a chronic form of laminitis, which is often termed “founder”. Some evidence suggests that chronic laminar inflammation might be associated with alterations in the endocrine and immune systems. We investigated this broad hypothesis by using DIGE to assess global differences in the plasma proteome between horses with chronic laminitis and controls.
We identified 16 differentially expressed proteins; the majority of these were involved in the interrelated coagulation, clotting, and kininogen cascades. Clinical testing of functional coagulation parameters in foundered horses revealed a slight delay in prothrombin (PT) clotting time, although most other indices were within normal ranges. Upregulation of the intestinal apolipoprotein APOA-IV in horses with chronic laminitis was confirmed by western blot.
Our results support the hypothesis that localized laminar inflammation may be linked to systemic alterations in immune regulation, particularly in the gastrointestinal system. Gastrointestinal inflammation has been implicated in the development of acute laminitis but has not previously been associated with chronic laminitis.