Differential temporal expression of milk miRNA during the lactation cycle of the marsupial tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii)

Vengamanaidu Modepalli, Amit Kumar, Lyn A. Hinds, Julie A. Sharp, Kevin R. Nicholas, Christophe Lefevre

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Lactation is a key aspect of mammalian evolution for adaptation of various reproductive strategies along different mammalian lineages. Marsupials, such as tammar wallaby, adopted a short gestation and a relatively long lactation cycle, the newborn is immature at birth and significant development occurs postnatally during lactation. Continuous changes of tammar milk composition may contribute to development and immune protection of pouch young. Here, in order to address the putative contribution of newly identified secretory milk miRNA in these processes, high throughput sequencing of miRNAs collected from tammar milk at different time points of lactation was conducted. A comparative analysis was performed to find distribution of miRNA in milk and blood serum of lactating wallaby. Results: Results showed that high levels of miRNA secreted in milk and allowed the identification of differentially expressed milk miRNAs during the lactation cycle as putative markers of mammary gland activity and functional candidate signals to assist growth and timed development of the young. Comparative analysis of miRNA distribution in milk and blood serum suggests that milk miRNAs are primarily expressed from mammary gland rather than transferred from maternal circulating blood, likely through a new putative exosomal secretory pathway. In contrast, highly expressed milk miRNAs could be detected at significantly higher levels in neonate blood serum in comparison to adult blood, suggesting milk miRNAs may be absorbed through the gut of the young. Conclusion: The function of miRNA in mammary gland development and secretory activity has been proposed, but results from the current study also support a differential role of milk miRNA in regulation of development in the pouch young, revealing a new potential molecular communication between mother and young during mammalian lactation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1012
Number of pages18
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Exosome
  • Lactation
  • Mammary gland
  • Marsupials
  • Micro RNA
  • Milk

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