Evolution of lactation: ancient origin and extreme adaptations of the lactation system

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2010:11:219-38. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-082509-141806.


Lactation, an important characteristic of mammalian reproduction, has evolved by exploiting a diversity of strategies across mammals. Comparative genomics and transcriptomics experiments have now allowed a more in-depth analysis of the molecular evolution of lactation. Milk cell and mammary gland genomic studies have started to reveal conserved milk proteins and other components of the lactation system of monotreme, marsupial, and eutherian lineages. These analyses confirm the ancient origin of the lactation system and provide useful insight into the function of specific milk proteins in the control of lactation. These studies also illuminate the role of milk in the regulation of growth and development of the young beyond simple nutritive aspects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Mammals / classification
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk Proteins / genetics
  • Phylogeny


  • Milk Proteins