Effect of 17β-estradiol on milk production, hormone secretion, and mammary gland gene expression in dairy cows


Tong, J.J., Thompson, I.M., Zhao, X., Lacasse, P. (2018). Effect of 17β-estradiol on milk production, hormone secretion, and mammary gland gene expression in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science (JDS), [online] 101(3), 2588-2601. http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2017-13353

Plain language summary

In dairy cows, gestation is associated with a faster decline in milk production, which appears to be caused by increased estradiol secretion. In the present study, we injected cows with a moderate amount of estradiol to determine if this hormone inhibits milk production by modulating prolactin secretion or responsiveness. Although it cannot be ruled out, the results do not support the contention that estradiol inhibits milk production through an inhibition of prolactin secretion or of the mammary gland responsiveness to this hormone.


Estradiol inhibits milk production in dairy cows. The present study evaluated the effect of 17β-estradiol (E2) injections on prolactin (PRL) secretion and the mammary gland response to this hormone. Eight mid-lactation cows were used in a crossover design. During each experimental period, the cows were injected daily with either E2 (2.5 mg) or soy oil (2.5 mL; control) for 7 d. For each period, blood and milk samples were collected from d −4 to 14 (relative to the first injection) to measure PRL, insulin-like growth factor-1, and cortisol concentrations. In addition, blood samples were collected during morning milking on d −4, 2, and 7 to determine the milking-induced PRL release. Mammary gland biopsies were collected on the last day of injections. Milk fat samples were collected from d 1 to 7 and on d 14. The mRNA levels of genes encoding proteins related to mammary activity (α-lactalbumin, β-casein, and acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase), apoptosis (Bax, Bcl2, and caspase-3), PRL receptors (PRLR; long and short forms), signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5A and STAT5B), and suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS2 and SOCS3) were evaluated by real-time reverse transcription PCR using RNA extracted from milk fat and mammary biopsies. Milk production was decreased moderately (about 9%) by E2 injections during the treatment period. Estradiol injections increased basal PRL levels in serum and milk but did not affect milking-induced PRL release. Estradiol injections increased the plasma concentration of insulin-like growth factor-1 but did not affect cortisol concentration during the treatment period. In mammary tissue, the expression of Bcl2 was downregulated, whereas that of STAT5A and B and the Bax:Bcl2 mRNA ratio was higher during E2 injections. The total STAT5 protein content in mammary tissue was elevated by E2 injections. We found no significant difference observed for the other genes in mammary tissue or milk fat. The present data do not support the contention that E2 injections inhibit milk production by interfering with PRL signaling, but enhanced basal PRL concentration and STAT5 gene expression in mammary tissue.

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