Milk protein genes are among the most intensively expressed and they are active only in epithelial mammary cells of lactating animals. They code for proteins which represent 30% of the proteins consumed by humans in developed countries. Mammary gland development occurs essentially during each pregnancy. This offers experimenters attractive models to study the expression mechanisms of genes controlled by known hormones and factors (prolactin, glucocorticoids, progesterone, insulin-like growth factor-1 and others) as well as extracellular matrix. In the mid-1970s, it became possible to identify and quantify mRNAs from higher living organisms using translation in reticulocyte lysate. A few years later, the use of radioactive cDNAs as probes made it possible for the quantification of mRNA in various physiological situations using hybridisation in the liquid phase. Gene cloning offered additional tools to measure milk protein mRNAs and also to identify transcription factors. Gene transfer in cultured mammary cells and in animals contributed greatly to these studies. It is now well established that most if not all genes of higher eukaryotes are under the control of multiple distal regulatory elements and that local modifications of the chromatin structure play an essential role in the mechanisms of differentiation from embryos to adults. The technique, known as ChIP (chromatin immunoprecipitation), is being implemented to identify the factors that modify chromatin structure at the milk protein gene level during embryo development, mammogenesis and lactogenesis, including the action of hormones and extracellular matrix. Transgenesis is not just a tool to study gene regulation and function, it is also currently used for various biotechnological applications including the preparation of pharmaceutical proteins in milk. This implies the design of efficient vectors capable of directing the secretion of recombinant proteins in milk at a high concentration. Milk protein gene promoters and long genomic-DNA fragments containing essentially all the regulatory elements of milk protein genes are used to optimise recombinant protein production in milk.