Genes associated with lactation evolved more slowly than other genes in the mammalian genome. Higher conservation of milk and mammary genes suggest that species variation in milk composition is due in part to the environment and that we must look deeper into the genome for regulation of lactation. At the onset of lactation, metabolic changes are coordinated among multiple tissues through the endocrine system to accommodate the increased demand for nutrients and energy while allowing the animal to remain in homeostasis. This process is known as homeorhesis. Homeorhetic adaptation to lactation has been extensively described; however how these adaptations are orchestrated among multiple tissues remains elusive. To develop a clearer picture of how gene expression is coordinated across multiple tissues during the pregnancy to lactation transition, total RNA was isolated from mammary, liver and adipose tissues collected from rat dams (n = 5) on day 20 of pregnancy and day 1 of lactation, and gene expression was measured using Affymetrix GeneChips. Two types of gene expression analysis were performed. Genes that were differentially expressed between days within a tissue were identified with linear regression, and univariate regression was used to identify genes commonly up-regulated and down-regulated across all tissues. Gene set enrichment analysis showed genes commonly up regulated among the three tissues enriched gene ontologiesprimary metabolic processes, macromolecular complex assembly and negative regulation of apoptosis ontologies. Genes enriched in transcription regulator activity showed the common up regulation of 2 core molecular clock genes, ARNTL and CLOCK. Commonly down regulated genes enriched Rhythmic process and included: NR1D1, DBP, BHLHB2, OPN4, and HTR7, which regulate intracellular circadian rhythms. Changes in mammary, liver and adipose transcriptomes at the onset of lactation illustrate the complexity of homeorhetic adaptations and suggest that these changes are coordinated through molecular clocks.


This is the publisher pdf of Casey T, Patel O, Dykema K, Dover H, Furge K, et al. (2009) Molecular Signatures Reveal Circadian Clocks May Orchestrate the Homeorhetic Response to Lactation. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7395 and is available at: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007395.

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