During pregnancy and lactation, subcutaneous white adipocytes in the mouse mammary gland transdifferentiate reversibly to milk-secreting epithelial cells. In this study, we demonstrate by transmission electron microscopy that in the post-lactating mammary gland interscapular multilocular adipocytes found close to the mammary alveoli contain milk protein granules. Use of the Cre-loxP recombination system allowed showing that the involuting mammary gland of whey acidic protein-Cre/R26R mice, whose secretory alveolar cells express the lacZ gene during pregnancy, contains some X-Gal-stained and uncoupling protein 1-positive interscapular multilocular adipocytes. These data suggest that during mammary gland involution some milk-secreting epithelial cells in the anterior subcutaneous depot may transdifferentiate to brown adipocytes, highlighting a hitherto unappreciated feature of mouse adipose organ plasticity.
Keywords: Cre-loxP recombination system; adipose organ; electron microscopy; mammary gland; pregnancy.
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