Short communication: opposing effects of lactoferrin on the proliferation of fibroblasts and epithelial cells from bovine mammary gland

J Dairy Sci. 2015 Feb;98(2):1069-77. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8430. Epub 2014 Dec 12.


Lactoferrin is present in several physiologic fluids, including milk and colostrum. Recently, evidence has accumulated that lactoferrin acts as a regulator of cell proliferation. Lactoferrin mRNA and protein levels in bovine mammary glands are known to markedly increase after cessation of milking. To clarify the role of bovine lactoferrin (bLF) in mammary involution and remodeling during dry periods, we investigated whether bLF affects the proliferation of cultured cells derived from bovine mammary gland and examined the mechanism underlying the proliferative response to bLF. Addition of bLF to the culture medium increased the proliferation of bovine mammary stromal fibroblasts (bMSF), but decreased that of bovine mammary epithelial cells (bMEC). Proliferation was significantly increased in the bMSF treated with bLF (100μg/mL or greater) as compared with unstimulated cells. The maximal proliferative effect of bLF on bMSF occurred at 1,000μg/mL, such that the proliferation of the bLF-stimulated bMSF was approximately 2.5 times that of unstimulated cells. The bLF increased the production of proliferating cell nuclear antigen and rapid phosphorylation of the p44/p42 mitogen-activated protein kinase in bMSF, but not in bMEC. The bLF-induced proliferation and production of proliferating cell nuclear antigen in bMSF was suppressed by U0126, a specific inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase. Furthermore, treatment with bLF for 24h decreased the mRNA levels of the 3 isoforms of transforming growth factor β in bMSF (16-66%) but upregulated those in bMEC (122-157%). These opposite effects of bLF on the proliferation of epithelial and fibroblast cells and their expression of transforming growth factor β may play a crucial role in bovine mammary involution and remodeling.

Keywords: cell proliferation; lactoferrin; mammary epithelial cell; mammary stromal fibroblast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Feces
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology*
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Lactoferrin