Among the multiple functions, which have been identified for the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), we study its role in the IgG transport in the mammary gland during the colostrum formation. For this reason, we have obtained several mammary gland biopsies from a pregnant sheep around parturition. The presence of the FcRn heavy chain mRNA was detected exclusively in the acinar and ductal epithelial cell by in situ hybridization (ISH). We detected strong signal in samples harvested 24 and 10 days prepartum; however, in samples we collected postpartum was barely detectable. Immunohistochemistry confirmed our ISH data. The cytoplasm of the epithelial cells of the acini and ducts in the mammary gland biopsies stained homogeneously before parturition, although a remarkable difference was observed in the pattern after lambing. The signal indicated uneven distribution of the FcRn alpha chain in the epithelial cells 1 and 5 days postpartum, since the apical sides of the epithelial cells were highlighted. The presence of the FcRn in the acinar and ductal epithelial cells and the obvious change of its distribution before and after parturition suggest that FcRn plays an important role in the IgG transport during colostrum formation. FcRn expression was also found in the lamb duodenal crypt epithelial cells, which have been previously demonstrated to secrete IgG1 in newborn ruminants, suggesting secretory role of the FcRn in ruminant epithelial cells.
- Mammary gland
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