A method for the collection of mammary biopsies developed previously was refined and used to study the endocrine regulation of bovine milk protein gene expression. Our surgical biopsy method used real-time ultrasound imaging and epidural analgesia to enable recovery of a sufficient quantity of mammary tissue from late-pregnant dairy cows for explant culture in vitro. The time of biopsy was critical for prolactin-dependent induction of milk protein gene expression in mammary explants, as only mammary tissue from cows nearing 30 d prepartum was hormone-responsive. This suggests that during the later stages of pregnancy a change in the responsiveness of milk protein gene expression to endocrine stimuli occurred in preparation for lactation. This may relate to the diminution of a putative population of undifferentiated cells that were still responsive to prolactin. Alternatively, the metabolic activity of the tissue had increased to the level whereby the response of the tissue was no longer assessable using this model in vitro.
Sheehy, P. A., Della-Vedova, J. A. J., Nicholas, K. R., & Wynn, P. (2004). Hormone-dependent milk protein gene expression in bovine mammary explants from biopsies at different stages of pregnancy. Journal of Dairy Research, 71(2), 135-140. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022029904000068