Gene expression in the mammary gland of the tammar wallaby during the lactation cycle reveals conserved mechanisms regulating mammalian lactation Academic Article uri icon


  • The tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), an Australian marsupial, has evolved a different lactation strategy compared with eutherian mammals, making it a valuable comparative model for lactation studies. The tammar mammary gland was investigated for changes in gene expression during key stages of the lactation cycle using microarrays. Differentially regulated genes were identified, annotated and subsequent gene ontologies, pathways and molecular networks analysed. Major milk-protein gene expression changes during lactation were in accord with changes in milk-protein secretion. However, other gene expression changes included changes in genes affecting mRNA stability, hormone and cytokine signalling and genes for transport and metabolism of amino acids and lipids. Some genes with large changes in expression have poorly known roles in lactation. For instance, SIM2 was upregulated at lactation initiation and may inhibit proliferation and involution of mammary epithelial cells, while FUT8 was upregulated in Phase 3 of lactation and may support the large increase in milk volume that occurs at this point in the lactation cycle. This pattern of regulation has not previously been reported and suggests that these genes may play a crucial regulatory role in marsupial milk production and are likely to play a related role in other mammals.


  • Vander Jagt, CJ
  • Whitley, JC
  • Cocks, BG
  • Goddard, M

publication date

  • 2016