Ovarian and Growth Hormone Regulation of Mammary Growth and Transcript Abundance in Prepubertal Dairy Heifers

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Virginia Tech


Ovarian secretions and growth hormone (GH) are major endocrine regulators of mammary growth and development in bovine mammary gland; but information on endocrine regulation during early prepubertal period is limited. Our overall objective was to study the regulation of mammary growth and development as well as transcript abundance in early prepubertal bovine mammary gland by ovarian secretions and exogenous bovine somatotropin (bST). In the first study, we determined the effect of staged ovariectomy on mammary growth and development in two to four month old Holstein heifers. In the second study, effects of bST on mammary growth and development, and also on putative stem cell population were evaluated by beginning bST treatment in one month old Holstein heifers. Mammary growth and development was determined by mass of mammary tissue, biochemical analyses, histological examination, transcript abundance and protein expression in mammary parenchyma (PAR) and fat pad (MFP). Ovariectomy reduced mass and lipid content of PAR without affecting the histological characteristics or rate of epithelial cell proliferation. There was a marked reduction in progesterone receptor expression both at the mRNA and protein level. Ovariectomy also reduced transcript abundance in GH receptor (R), insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, IGF binding protein -6, estrogen responsive and proliferation marker genes, but increased the mRNA abundance of IGF-1R in PAR. On the other hand, administration of bST did not have an impact on PAR growth, epithelial proliferation, putative stem cell population or transcript abundance of IGF-axis genes. However, bST reduced the relative abundance of GHR, signal transducers and activators of transcription-5b and suppressors of cytokine signaling-2 in mammary PAR. Transcript abundance of IGF-axis molecules, estrogen responsive genes and proliferation markers in MFP was not affected by ovariectomy or bST. Overall, our data suggest that ovary is a predominant regulator of mammary growth and development in prepubertal heifers and that exogenous bST is not effective as a mammary specific mitogen in very young prepubertal heifers.



ovariectomy, mammary, heifer, gene expression