Abstract In the mammary gland of non-ruminant animals, glucose is utilized in a characteristic and unique way during lactation . By measuring the incorporation of glucose carbon from [U- 14C]glucose into intermediary metabolites and metabolic products in mammary epithelial cells from virgin, pregnant, and lactating mice, we demonstrate that glucose metabolite patterns can be used to recognize stages of differentiated function. For these cells, the rates of synthesis of glycogen and lactose, the ratio of lactate to alanine, and the ratio of citrate to malate are important parameters in identifying the degree of expression of differentiation. We further show that these patterns can be used as markers to determine the differentiated state of cultured mammary epithelial cells. Cells maintained on plastic substrates lose their distinctive glucose metabolite patterns while those on floating collagen gels do not. Cells isolated from pregnant mice and cultured on collagen gels have a pattern similar to that of their freshly isolated counterparts. When isolated from lactating mice, the metabolite patterns of cells cultured on collagen gels are different from that of the cells of origin, and resembles that of freshly isolated cells from pregnant mice. Our findings suggest that the floating collagen gels under the culture conditions used in these experiments provide an environment for the functional expression of the pregnant state, while additional factors are needed for the expression of the lactating state.