Tight junction regulation in the mammary gland

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 1998 Jul;3(3):233-46. doi: 10.1023/a:1018707309361.


Tight junctions form a narrow, continuous seal that surrounds each endothelial and epithelial cell at the apical border, and act to regulate the movement of material through the paracellular pathway. In the mammary gland, the tight junctions of the alveolar epithelial cells are impermeable during lactation, and thus allow milk to be stored between nursing periods without leakage of milk components from the lumen. Nonetheless mammary epithelial tight junctions are dynamic and can be regulated by a number of stimuli. Tight junctions of the mammary gland from the pregnant animal are leaky, undergoing closure around parturition to become the impermeable tight junctions of the lactating animal. Milk stasis, high doses of oxytocin, and mastitis have been shown to increase tight junction permeability. In general changes in tight junction permeability in the mammary gland appear to be the results of a state change and not assembly and disassembly of tight junctions. Both local factors, such as intramammary pressure and TGF-beta, and systemic factors, such as prolactin, progesterone, and glucocorticoids, appear to play a role in the regulation of mammary tight junctions. Finally, the tight junction state appears to be closely linked to milk secretion. An increase in tight junction permeability is accompanied by decrease in the milk secretion rate, and conversely, a decrease in tight junction permeability is accompanied by an increase in the milk secretion rate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Lactation
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / physiology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / ultrastructure*
  • Milk / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Tight Junctions / physiology*