Mammary gland lactose concentrations in pregnant tammar wallabies remained low at 115 ± (s.e.m.) μg/g wet weight of tissue until immediately before parturition, then increased to 1274±262 μg/g after birth. Concentrations in non-pregnant cyclic animals were generally low 143±36 μg/g), but were raised in three animals around the time of oestrus.
Removal of the corpus luteum on day 18 of pregnancy or the oestrous cycle caused an increase in lactose concentrations in both lutectomized and sham-operated animals. This occurred despite a significant lowering of peripheral plasma progesterone concentration in only the lutectomized group. Plasma cortisol concentrations were high in some of these animals, but showed no consistent relationships with the raised lactose concentrations.
The increased peripartum lactose concentration normally coincides with a sharp fall in peripheral plasma progesterone concentration, but artificial maintenance of high progesterone levels had no effect on the increase of mammary gland lactose at parturition.
Mammary gland lactose concentrations in tammar wallabies are therefore a useful indicator of biosynthetic activity and as an index of lactogenesis but the role, if any, of progesterone withdrawal in lactogenesis remains unclear.