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BMC Biol. 2008 Nov 6;6:48. doi: 10.1186/1741-7007-6-48.

Lack of functional alpha-lactalbumin prevents involution in Cape fur seals and identifies the protein as an apoptotic milk factor in mammary gland involution.

Author information

  • 1CRC for Innovative Dairy Products, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia. jasharp@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The mammary gland undergoes a sophisticated programme of developmental changes during pregnancy/lactation. However, little is known about processes involving initiation of apoptosis at involution following weaning. We used fur seals as models to study the molecular process of involution as these animals display a unique mammary gland phenotype. Fur seals have long lactation periods whereby mothers cycle between secreting copious quantities of milk for 2 to 3 days suckling pups on land, with trips to sea alone to forage for up to 23 days during which time mammary glands remain active without initiating apoptosis/involution.

RESULTS:

We show the molecular basis by which alpha-lactalbumin (LALBA), a secreted milk protein, is absent in Cape fur seals and demonstrate an apoptotic function for LALBA when exposed to mammary cells.

CONCLUSION:

We propose that apoptosis does not occur in fur seal mammary glands due to lack of LALBA in fur seal milk, allowing evasion of involution during a foraging trip. Our work identifies LALBA as a milk factor that feeds back on the mammary gland to regulate involution.

PMID:
18986549
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2600633
Free PMC Article

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