Marsupial Milk – Identifying Signals for Regulating Mammary Function and Development of the Young

  • Julie A. Sharp
  • Christophe Lefevre
  • Joly Kwek
  • Denijal Topcic
  • Laurine Buscara
  • Cate Pooley
  • Robb de Iongh
  • Mary Familari
  • Kevin R. Nicholas


The role of milk in providing nutrition for the young is well established. However, it is becoming apparent that milk has a more comprehensive role in programming and regulating growth and development of the suckled young, and an autocrine impact on the mammary gland so that it functions appropriately during the lactation cycle. This central role of milk is best studied in animal models, such as marsupials that have evolved a different lactation strategy to eutherians and allow researchers to more easily identify regulatory mechanisms that are not as readily apparent in eutherian species. For example, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) has evolved with a unique reproductive strategy of a short gestation, birth of an altricial young and a relatively long lactation during which the mother progressively changes the composition of the major, and many of the minor components of milk. Thus, in contrast to eutherians, there is a far greater investment in development of the young during lactation and it is likely that many of the signals that regulate development of eutherian embryos in utero are delivered by the milk. This requires the co-ordinated development and function of the mammary gland. Inappropriate timing of these signalling events in mammals may result in either limited or abnormal development of the young, and potentially a higher incidence of mature onset disease. The tammar is emerging as an attractive model to better understand the role of milk factors in these processes.


Milk Mammary Stomach Development Neonate 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie A. Sharp
    • 1
  • Christophe Lefevre
    • 1
  • Joly Kwek
    • 2
  • Denijal Topcic
    • 2
  • Laurine Buscara
    • 1
  • Cate Pooley
    • 1
  • Robb de Iongh
    • 3
  • Mary Familari
    • 2
  • Kevin R. Nicholas
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Technology Research and InnovationDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy and Cell BiologyThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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