Submitted to: Animal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 28, 2010
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Citation: Capuco, A.V., Choudhary, R.K., Daniels, K.M., Li, R.W., Clover, C.M. 2012. Bovine mammary stem cells: Cell biology meets production agriculture. Animal. 6:382-393.
Mammary stem cells (MaSC) provide for net growth, renewal and turnover of mammary epithelial cells, and are therefore potential targets for strategies to increase production efficiency. Appropriate regulation of MaSC can potentially benefit milk yield, persistency, dry period management and tissue repair. Accordingly, we and others have attempted to characterize and alter the function of bovine MaSC. In this review, we provide an overview current knowledge of MaSC gained from studies using mouse and human model systems and present research on bovine MaSC within that context. Recent data indicate that MaSC retain labeled DNA for extended periods because of their selective segregation of template DNA strands during mitosis. Using long-term retention of bromodeoxyuridine-labeled DNA, we identified putative bovine MaSC. These label retaining epithelial cells (LREC) are in low abundance within mammary epithelium (< 1%). They are predominantly estrogen receptor-negative and localized in a basal or suprabasal layer of the epithelium throughout the gland. Thus, the response of MaSC to estrogen, the major mitogen in mammary gland, is likely mediated by paracrine factors released by cells that are estrogen receptor-positive. This is consistent with considerable evidence for cross-talk within and between epithelial cells and surrounding stromal cells. Excision of classes of cells by laser microdissection and subsequent microarray analysis will hopefully provide markers for MaSC and insights into their regulation. Preliminary analysis of gene expression in laser-microdissected LREC and non-LREC are consistent with the concept that LREC represent populations of stem cells and progenitor cells that differ with regard to their properties and location within the epithelial layer. We have attempted to modulate MaSC number by infusing a solution of xanthosine through the teat canal and into the ductal network of the mammary glands of prepubertal heifers. This treatment increased the number of putative stem cells, as evidenced by an increase in the percentage of LREC and increased telomerase activity within the tissue. The exciting possibility that stem cell expansion can influence milk production is currently under investigation.