During lactogenesis in the goat, the onset of secretion of calcium into milk occurs at parturition (Thompson et al. 1995) at approximately the same time as the onset of secretion of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) by the mammary gland (Ratcliffe et al. 1992); these events may be unrelated or PTHrP may be involved in calcium transport from blood to milk.
Parturition in goats is initiated by fetal secretion of cortisol (Flint et al. 1978) and maternal secretion of cortisol also increases (Paterson & Linzell, 1971). Injecting cortisol locally into the sinus of a mammary gland of the late-pregnant goat when the tight junctions between secretory epithelial cells appear to be ‘loose’, and injectate can reach the basolateral surfaces of secretory cells, stimulates an early tightening of these junctions (Thompson, 1996) as occurs naturally at parturition. This tightening can be produced by an increased concentration of ionized calcium in the extracellular fluid of the gland (Neville & Peaker, 1981).
The experiments reported here were undertaken to determine if cortisol injection stimulates the mammary gland to secrete both PTHrP and calcium before parturition.