A novel approach identified the FOLR1 gene, a putative regulator of milk protein synthesis
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This study has utilised comparative functional genomics to exploit animal models with extreme adaptation to lactation to identify candidate genes that specifically regulate protein synthesis in the cow mammary gland. Increasing milk protein production is valuable to the dairy industry. The lactation strategies of both the Cape fur seal (Artocephalus pusillus pusillus) and the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) include periods of high rates of milk protein synthesis during an established lactation and therefore offer unique models to target genes that specifically regulate milk protein synthesis. Global changes in mammary gene expression in the Cape fur seal, tammar wallaby, and the cow (Bos taurus) were assessed using microarray analysis. The folate receptor α (FOLR1) showed the greatest change in gene expression in all three species [cow 12.7-fold (n = 3), fur seal 15.4-fold (n = 1), tammar 2.4-fold (n = 4)] at periods of increased milk protein production. This compliments previous reports that folate is important for milk protein synthesis and suggests FOLR1 may be a key regulatory point of folate metabolism for milk protein synthesis within mammary epithelial cells (lactocytes). These data may have important implications for the dairy industry to develop strategies to increase milk protein production in cows. This study illustrates the potential of comparative genomics to target genes of interest to the scientific community.