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Mol Aspects Med. 2005 Aug-Oct;26(4-5):328-39.

Molecular regulation of milk trace mineral homeostasis.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The regulation of milk trace mineral homeostasis requires the temporal integration of three main processes, (A) mineral uptake into the secretory mammary epithelial cell (MEC); followed by (B) mineral secretion from MEC into the alveoli lumen of the mammary gland for sequestration in milk; and then (C) milk release in response to suckling. Trace mineral requirements of term infants are generally met by exclusive breast-feeding through about the first 6 months of life and although milk zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and copper (Cu) concentrations are relatively refractory to maternal trace mineral status, they normally decline throughout lactation. Recently, Zn-, Fe- and Cu-specific transporters have been identified that regulate trace element uptake and efflux in various cell types; however, there is currently little information available regarding the processes through which the mammary gland regulates milk trace mineral transport. The homology of trace mineral transporters between species permits the utilization of rodent models to examine the regulation of mammary gland mineral transport. Therefore, we have used the lactating rat to determine changes in mammary gland Zn, Fe and Cu transporter expression and localization that occur throughout lactation and in response to maternal trace mineral deficiency in hope of elucidating some of the changes which occur during mammary gland trace element homeostasis and also may be occurring in lactating women.

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