Deakin University

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Species-specific cell-matrix interactions are essential for differentiation of alveoli like structures and milk gene expression in primary mammary cells of the Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus)

journal contribution
posted on 2006-09-01, 00:00 authored by Julie SharpJulie Sharp, K Cane, S Mailer, W Oosthuizen, John ArnouldJohn Arnould, Kevin Nicholas
Few models are in place for analysis of extreme lactation patterns such as that of the fur seals which are capable of extended down regulation of milk production in the absence of involution. During a 10–12 month lactation period, female fur seals suckle pups on shore for 2–3 days, and then undertake long foraging trips at sea for up to 28 days, resulting in the longest intersuckling bouts recorded. During this time the mammary gland down regulates milk production. We have induced Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) mammary cells in vitro to form mammospheres up to 900 μm in diameter, larger than any of their mammalian counterparts. Mammosphere lumens were shown to form via apoptosis and cells comprising the cellular boundary stained vimentin positive. The Cape fur seal GAPDH gene was cloned and used in RT-PCR as a normalization tool to examine comparative expression of milk protein genes (αS2-casein, β-lactoglobulin and lysozyme C) which were prolactin responsive. Cape fur seal mammary cells were found to be unique; they did not require Matrigel for rapid mammosphere formation and instead deposited their own matrix within 2 days of culture. When grown on Matrigel, cells exhibited branching/stellate morphogenesis highlighting the species-specific nature of cell–matrix interactions during morphological differentiation. Matrix produced in vitro by cells did not support formation of human breast cancer cell line, PMC42 mammospheres. This novel model system will help define the molecular pathways controlling the regulation of milk protein expression and species specific requirements of the extracellular matrix in the cape fur seal.



Matrix biology






430 - 442


Elsevier B.V.


Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2006, Elsevier