To study the involvement of the IGFs in mammary development and lactation of the cow, the temporal expressions of IGF-I and -II, its receptor type 1 (IGFR-1), IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs)-1 to -6 and GH receptor (GHR) mRNA were examined. This was carried out for different stages of mammogenesis, lactogenesis, galactopoiesis and involution in the bovine mammary gland of 26 animals. Furthermore, IGF-I was localised by immunohistochemistry. The highest mRNA concentrations for IGF-I were detected in the mammary tissue of late pregnant heifers (days 255-272) and significantly lower expression was detected during lactogenesis and galactopoiesis. Immunohistochemistry of IGF-I revealed only a weak staining in the epithelium of the ducts during mammogenesis. The epithelium of the alveoli were negative during mammogenesis, lactogenesis and galactopoiesis but displayed distinct IGF-I activity during involution. In the stroma a distinct staining of the cytoplasm of adipocytes and of vascular smooth muscle cells was observed. A certain percentage of fibroblasts (usually 20-30%) were also immunopositive. In contrast, highest expression for IGFR-1 was detected during galactopoiesis and involution. The lowest mRNA concentration for IGFR-1 was found during pregnancy (days 194-213). In general, the expression of IGF-II was not regulated during mammogenesis and lactation, but decreased during involution. The mRNA for the six binding proteins was detected in the bovine mammary gland. The dominant binding proteins were IGFBP-3 and -5. The highest expression of IGFBP-3 was observed during mid-pregnancy and the lowest during late lactation, involution and in non-pregnant heifers. The mRNA for IGFBP-5 increased during late mammogenesis and lactogenesis followed by a decrease thereafter. In general, the mRNA concentrations for IGFBP-2, -4 and -6 were barely detectable during all stages. In contrast, the expression for IGFBP-1 was upregulated in the mammary gland of virgin heifers and increased around the onset of lactation. mRNA for GHR was found during all stages examined without outstanding fluctuations. In conclusion, locally produced IGF-I and -II may mediate mammogenesis. The high mammary IGFR-1 mRNA during lactation suggests a role for peripheral IGF-I in maintenance of lactation. The role of IGFBPs in the mammary gland needs further evaluation.
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