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Regulation of cell number in the mammary gland by controlling the exfoliation process in milk in ruminants

  • Hervé, Lucile
  • Quesnel, Helene
  • Lollivier, Vanessa
  • Boutinaud, Marion
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2016
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Milk yield is partly influenced by the number of mammary epithelial cells (MEC) in the mammary gland. It is well known that variations in MEC number are due to cell proliferation and apoptosis. The exfoliation of MEC from the mammary epithelium into milk is another process that might influence MEC number in the mammary tissue. The rate of MEC exfoliation can be assessed by measuring the milk MEC content through light microscopy, flow cytometry analysis, or an immuno-magnetic method for MEC purification. Various experimental models have been used to affect milk yield and study the rate of MEC exfoliation. Reducing milking frequency from twice to once daily did not seem to have any effect on MEC loss in goat and cow milk after 7 d, but increased MEC loss per day in goats when applied for a longer period. An increase in MEC exfoliation was also observed during short days as compared with long days, or in response to an endotoxin-induced mastitis in cows. Other animal models were designed to investigate the endocrine control of the exfoliation process and its link with milk production. Suppression of ovarian steroids by ovariectomy resulted in a greater persistency of lactation and a decrease in MEC exfoliation. Administering prolactin inhibitors during lactation or at dry-off enhanced MEC exfoliation, whereas exogenous prolactin during lactation tended to prevent the negative effect of prolactin inhibitors. These findings suggest that prolactin could regulate MEC exfoliation. In most of these studies, variations of MEC exfoliation were associated with variations in milk yield and changes in mammary epithelium integrity. Exfoliation of MEC could thus influence milk yield by regulating MEC number in mammary tissue.

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