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The effects of prolactin and oxytocin on milk secretion and on the permeability of the mammary epithelium in the rabbit.

By J L Linzell, M Peaker and J C Taylor


The effects of prolactin or oxytocin on milk secretion and the permeability of the mammary epithelium have been investigated in rabbits. 2. Milk yield was increased by prolactin treatment in late (25-28 days) but not in established (11-14 days) lactation. 3. Prolactin treatment increased milk [lactose] and [K] and decreased [Na] and [Cl] in late lactation, and thus reversed the normal changes in late lactation, but had no significant effect in established lactation. 4. [14C]sucrose movements from blood to milk were significantly decreased to levels characteristic of established lactation, following prolactin treatment in late lactation. No significant effect was evident with treatment in established lactation. Na and Cl movements showed similar trends. 5. It is suggested that prolactin in some way affects paracellular movements of ions and small molecules like lactose across the mammary epithelium, and that this mechanism is responsible for the changes in the composition of the aqueous phase of milk. 6. Immediately following a single dose of 100 m-u. oxytocin no significant effects on milk composition were evident but after 1 u. milk [Na] and [cl] were significantly increased. 7. Twenty-four hr after 1 u. oxytocin, milk [Na] and [cl] were decreased while [K], [lactose], [fat] and [protein] were increased. 8. During an I.V. infusion of oxytocin milk [Na] and [Cl] increased while [K] and [lactose] decreased. The passage of [(14)C]sucrose, 24Na and (36)Cl from blood to milk also increased. 9. These effects of oxytocin are discussed in relation to the permeability of the mammary epithelium and the pathways for ion movements, and to other studies on milk composition in the rabbit involving the administration of oxytocin to aid in the evacuation of milk

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