, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 47-58

The Fur Seal—a Model Lactation Phenotype to Explore Molecular Factors Involved in the Initiation of Apoptosis at Involution

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Abstract

Mammary gland involution requires co-ordination of milk production, immune responses, apoptosis and remodeling. Initiation and progression of each of these components involves integral control by the mammary gland. Although cell-based culture models and genetically manipulated animals have shed light on these processes, the factors controlling each step in the involution cascade are still poorly understood. The fur seal displays a unique lactation phenotype. During the lactation cycle the mammary gland downregulates milk production and initiates an immune response but fails to initiate the apoptotic phase of involution, allowing the female fur seal to undertake long foraging trips of up to 28 days between suckling bouts. Upon return to shore the female continues feeding her pup following resumption of lactation and milk production. Expression profiling of genes involved in this lactation cycle provides valuable tools for investigation of the factors responsible for the initiation of apoptosis at involution.