a1 Physiology Weihenstephan, Technical University Munich, 85354 Freising, Germany
a2 Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, 3001 Bern, Switzerland
a3 Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters play a pivotal role in human physiology, and mutations in these genes often result in severe hereditary diseases. ABC transporters are expressed in the bovine mammary gland but their physiological role in this organ remains elusive. Based on findings in the context of human disorders we speculated that candidate ABC transporters are implicated in lipid and cholesterol transport in the mammary gland. Therefore we investigated the expression pattern of selected genes that are associated with sterol transport in lactating and nonlactating mammary glands of dairy cows. mRNA levels from mammary gland biopsies taken during lactation and in the first and second week of the dry period were analysed using quantitative PCR. Five ABC transporter genes, namely ABCA1, ABCA7, ABCG1, ABCG2 and ABCG5, their regulating genes LXRα, PPARγ, SREBP1 and the milk proteins lactoferrin and α-lactalbumin were assessed. A significantly enhanced expression in the dry period was observed for ABCA1 while a significant decrease of expression in this period was detected for ABCA7, ABCG2, SREBP1 and α-lactalbumin. ABCG1, ABCG5, LXRα, PPARγ and lactoferrin expression was not altered between lactation and dry period. These results indicate that candidate ABC transporters involved in lipid and cholesterol transport show differential mRNA expression between lactation and the dry period. This may be due to physiological changes in the mammary gland such as immigration of macrophages or the accumulation of fat due to the loss of liquid in the involuting mammary gland. The current mRNA expression analysis of transporters in the mammary gland is the prerequisite for elucidating novel molecular mechanisms underlying cholesterol and lipid transfer into milk.
(Received September 19 2007)
(Accepted April 15 2008)
(Online publication August 14 2008)