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Amino acid transportation, sensing and signal transduction in the mammary gland: key molecular signalling pathways in the regulation of milk synthesis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2020

Zhihui Wu
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China
Jinghui Heng
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China
Min Tian
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China
Hanqing Song
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China
Fang Chen
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China College of Animal Science and National Engineering Research Center for Breeding Swine Industry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou510642, China
Wutai Guan*
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China College of Animal Science and National Engineering Research Center for Breeding Swine Industry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou510642, China
Shihai Zhang*
Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition Control, College of Animal Science, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China College of Animal Science and National Engineering Research Center for Breeding Swine Industry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou510642, China Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA
*Corresponding authors: Wutai Guan, email; Shihai Zhang, email
*Corresponding authors: Wutai Guan, email; Shihai Zhang, email


The mammary gland, a unique exocrine organ, is responsible for milk synthesis in mammals. Neonatal growth and health are predominantly determined by quality and quantity of milk production. Amino acids are crucial maternal nutrients that are the building blocks for milk protein and are potential energy sources for neonates. Recent advances made regarding the mammary gland further demonstrate that some functional amino acids also regulate milk protein and fat synthesis through distinct intracellular and extracellular pathways. In the present study, we discuss recent advances in the role of amino acids (especially branched-chain amino acids, methionine, arginine and lysine) in the regulation of milk synthesis. The present review also addresses the crucial questions of how amino acids are transported, sensed and transduced in the mammary gland.

Review Article
© The Author(s) 2020

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