The unfolded protein response is involved in both differentiation and apoptosis of bovine mammary epithelial cells

Shinichi Yonekura, Megumi Tsuchiya, Yukako Tokutake, Moeko Mizusawa, Miwa Nakano, Makoto Miyaji, Hiroshi Ishizaki, Satoshi Haga

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The unfolded protein response (UPR) describes a process involved in the homeostasis of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the differentiation of secretory cells. At present, the roles of UPR in the mammary gland tissue of dairy cattle are unknown. In the current study, we investigated the expression of UPR-related genes in Holstein cows during the developmental and lactating stages of the mammary gland tissue. To investigate the roles of UPR during the differentiation of mammary epithelial cells (MEC), we used MAC-T cells, a line of MEC. We collected samples of mammary gland tissue in dairy cows by biopsy during the late gestation and lactation periods and examined the expression of UPR-related genes by quantitative real-time PCR. Expression levels of the spliced X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1) and activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) were found to be significantly higher in the mammary gland tissue 10 d before delivery compared with 40 d before delivery. An investigation before and after differentiation in MAC-T cells showed that the expression of ATF4 increased after differentiation of MEC, whereas that of the spliced XBP1 did not significantly change. Western blot analysis revealed that the differentiation-inducing stimulus induced phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) but reduced that of protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK). Additionally, in ATF4-knockdown bovine MEC, differentiation was significantly suppressed; ATF4 knockdown also significantly suppressed the expression of glucocorticoid and insulin receptors. These results revealed that ER stress–independent ATF4 is involved in the cell differentiation mechanism, either directly or indirectly, via the control of the expression of lactogenic hormone receptors in bovine MEC. Immediately after parturition, gene expression levels of the spliced XBP1, ATF4, and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP) markedly increased in mammary gland tissue, with a strong negative correlation between expression of CHOP and initial milk yield; CHOP is an apoptosis-related protein induced by ER stress. The above findings indicate that UPR is intrinsically associated with apoptosis of MEC, thus affecting the differentiation of these cells, as well as milk yield.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3568-3578
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr


  • dairy cow
  • mammary epithelial cell
  • unfolded protein response (UPR)


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