Recent advances in the regulation of milk fat synthesis

K. J. Harvatine, Y. R. Boisclair, D. E. Bauman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


In addition to its economic value, milk fat is responsible for many of milk's characteristics and can be markedly affected by diet. Diet-induced milk fat depression (MFD) was first described over a century ago and remains a common problem observed under both intensive and extensive management. The biohydrogenation theory established that MFD is caused by an inhibition of mammary synthesis of milk fat by specific fatty acids (FA) produced as intermediates in ruminal biohydrogenation. During MFD, lipogenic capacity and transcription of key lipid synthesis genes in the mammary gland are down-regulated in a coordinated manner. Our investigations have established that expressions of sterol response element-binding protein 1 (SREBP1) and SREBP-activation proteins are down-regulated during MFD. Importantly, key lipogenic enzymes are transcriptionally regulated via SREBP1. Collectively, these results provide strong evidence for SREBP1 as a central signaling pathway in the regulation of mammary FA synthesis. Spot 14 is also down-regulated during MFD, consistent with a lipogenic role for this novel nuclear protein. In addition, SREBP1c and Spot 14 knock-out mice exhibit reduced milk fat similar to the magnitude and pattern of MFD in the cow. Application of molecular biology approaches has provided the latest chapter in the regulation of milk fat synthesis and is reviewed along with a brief background in nutritional regulation of milk fat synthesis in ruminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-54
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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