Journal of dairy science

Characterization of mammary stromal remodeling during the dry period.

PMID 20494151


During the dry period between successive lactations, the mammary gland of dairy cows undergoes extensive remodeling that is marked by phases of involution and mammogenesis. Changes in the mammary epithelium during the dry period have been well characterized; however, few studies have examined the changes that occur in stromal tissue. The objective of this study was to characterize changes that occur in mammary stroma during the dry period. Mammary biopsies were taken from 9 multigravid Holstein cows in late lactation, at 1 wk after dry-off, 3 wk before expected calving date, and 1 wk before expected calving date. Tissue was fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin, and cut into 5-mum sections. Sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin or with immunohistochemistry for expression of smooth muscle alpha actin (SMA), fibronectin, stromelysin-1 (MMP-3), transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), and TGF-beta receptor 2 (TGF-betaR2). Images of tissues were captured with light microscopy, and imaging software was used to measure intralobular stromal area, number of activated fibroblasts, as identified by expression of SMA, and percentage of intralobular stromal area expressing fibronectin, MMP3, TGF-beta1, and TGF-betaR2. Analyses of variance were conducted and statistical differences were based on the least squares means of biopsy stage. Number of activated fibroblasts was greater at 1 wk dry than at 1 wk before calving (2,720 vs. 1,800 cells/mm(2)), percentage intralobular stromal area was greater at 1 wk dry (32%) and 3 wk before calving (37%) than at 1 wk before calving (25%), and TGF-beta1 expression decreased 15% from late lactation to the dry period. The percentages of stromal area expressing fibronectin, MMP-3, and TGF-betaR2 and the percentage of myofibroblasts were not different across biopsy stages. These results support the concept that stromal expression of transforming growth factor-beta1 and fibroblast proliferation may be important for remodeling during the dry period.