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Mol Cells. 2016 May 31;39(5):410-7. doi: 10.14348/molcells.2016.2358. Epub 2016 Mar 30.

Arginine Supplementation Recovered the IFN-γ-Mediated Decrease in Milk Protein and Fat Synthesis by Inhibiting the GCN2/eIF2α Pathway, Which Induces Autophagy in Primary Bovine Mammary Epithelial Cells.

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College of Veterinary Medicine, Jilin University, Changchun, China.
College of Animal Science, Jilin University, Changchun, China.
College of Animal Science, Inner Mongolian Agricultural University, Hohhot, China.
College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.


During the lactation cycle of the bovine mammary gland, autophagy is induced in bovine mammary epithelial cells (BMECs) as a cellular homeostasis and survival mechanism. Interferon gamma (IFN-γ) is an important antiproliferative and apoptogenic factor that has been shown to induce autophagy in multiple cell lines in vitro. However, it remains unclear whether IFN-γ can induce autophagy and whether autophagy affects milk synthesis in BMECs. To understand whether IFN-γ affects milk synthesis, we isolated and purified primary BMECs and investigated the effect of IFN-γ on milk synthesis in primary BMECs in vitro. The results showed that IFN-γ significantly inhibits milk synthesis and that autophagy was clearly induced in primary BMECs in vitro within 24 h. Interestingly, autophagy was observed following IFN-γ treatment, and the inhibition of autophagy can improve milk protein and milk fat synthesis. Conversely, upregulation of autophagy decreased milk synthesis. Furthermore, mechanistic analysis confirmed that IFN-γ mediated autophagy by depleting arginine and inhibiting the general control nonderepressible-2 kinase (GCN2)/eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) signaling pathway in BMECs. Then, it was found that arginine supplementation could attenuate IFN-γ-induced autophagy and recover milk synthesis to some extent. These findings may not only provide a novel measure for preventing the IFN-γ-induced decrease in milk quality but also a useful therapeutic approach for IFN-γ-associated breast diseases in other animals and humans.


BMECs; IFN-γ; arginine; autophagy; milk synthesis

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