Comparison of stem/progenitor Cell Number and Transcriptomic Profile in the Mammary Tissue of Dairy and Beef Breed Heifers

J Appl Genet. 2014 Aug;55(3):383-95. doi: 10.1007/s13353-014-0213-1. Epub 2014 Apr 20.


Bovine mammary stem cells (MaSC) are a source of ductal and lobulo-alveolar tissue during the development of the mammary gland and its remodeling in repeating lactation cycles. We hypothesize that the number of MaSC, their molecular properties, and interactions with their niche may be essential in order to determine the mammogenic potential in heifers. To verify this hypothesis, we compared the number of MaSC and the transcriptomic profile in the mammary tissue of 20-month-old, non-pregnant dairy (Holstein-Friesian, HF) and beef (Limousin, LM) heifers. For the identification and quantification of putative stem/progenitor cells in mammary tissue sections, scanning cytometry was used with a combination of MaSC molecular markers: stem cell antigen-1 (Sca-1) and fibronectin type III domain containing 3B (FNDC3B) protein. Cytometric analysis revealed a significantly higher number of Sca-1(pos)FNDC3B(pos) cells in HF (2.94 ± 0.35%) than in LM (1.72 ± 0.20%) heifers. In HF heifers, a higher expression of intramammary hormones, growth factors, cytokines, chemokines, and transcription regulators was observed. The model of mammary microenvironment favorable for MaSC was associated with the regulation of genes involved in MaSC maintenance, self-renewal, proliferation, migration, differentiation, mammary tissue remodeling, angiogenesis, regulation of adipocyte differentiation, lipid metabolism, and steroid and insulin signaling. In conclusion, the mammogenic potential in postpubertal dairy heifers is facilitated by a higher number of MaSC and up-regulation of mammary auto- and paracrine factors representing the MaSC niche.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Count
  • Dairying
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers