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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 21;8(8):e70393. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070393. eCollection 2013.

Bovine mammary gene expression profiling during the onset of lactation.

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  • 1Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Ruminant Nutritional Physiology, College of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, Shandong Agricultural University, Taian, China.



Lactogenesis includes two stages. Stage I begins a few weeks before parturition. Stage II is initiated around the time of parturition and extends for several days afterwards.


To better understand the molecular events underlying these changes, genome-wide gene expression profiling was conducted using digital gene expression (DGE) on bovine mammary tissue at three time points (on approximately day 35 before parturition (-35 d), day 7 before parturition (-7 d) and day 3 after parturition (+3 d)). Approximately 6.2 million (M), 5.8 million (M) and 6.1 million (M) 21-nt cDNA tags were sequenced in the three cDNA libraries (-35 d, -7 d and +3 d), respectively. After aligning to the reference sequences, the three cDNA libraries included 8,662, 8,363 and 8,359 genes, respectively. With a fold change cutoff criteria of ≥ 2 or ≤-2 and a false discovery rate (FDR) of ≤ 0.001, a total of 812 genes were significantly differentially expressed at -7 d compared with -35 d (stage I). Gene ontology analysis showed that those significantly differentially expressed genes were mainly associated with cell cycle, lipid metabolism, immune response and biological adhesion. A total of 1,189 genes were significantly differentially expressed at +3 d compared with -7 d (stage II), and these genes were mainly associated with the immune response and cell cycle. Moreover, there were 1,672 genes significantly differentially expressed at +3 d compared with -35 d. Gene ontology analysis showed that the main differentially expressed genes were those associated with metabolic processes.


The results suggest that the mammary gland begins to lactate not only by a gain of function but also by a broad suppression of function to effectively push most of the cell's resources towards lactation.

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