Background: The mammary gland is responsible for the transfer of a tremendous amount of zinc (,1-3 mg zinc/day) from maternal circulation into milk during lactation to support the growth and development of the offspring. When this process is compromised, severe zinc deficiency compromises neuronal development and immune function and increases infant morbidity and/or mortality. It remains unclear as to how the lactating mammary gland dynamically integrates zinc import from maternal circulation with the enormous amount of zinc that is secreted into milk. Methodology/Principal Findings: Herein we utilized X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) which allowed for the visualization and quantification of the process of zinc transfer through the mammary gland of the lactating mouse. Our data illustrate that a large amount of zinc first accumulates in the mammary gland during lactation. Interestingly, this zinc is not cytosolic, but accumulated in large, discrete sub-cellular compartments. These zinc pools were then redistributed to small intracellular vesicles destined for secretion in a prolactin-responsive manner. Confocal microscopy identified mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus as the sub-cellular compartments which accumulate zinc; however, zinc pools in the Golgi apparatus, but not mitochondria are redistributed to vesicles destined for secretion during lactation. Conclusions/Significance: Our data directly implicate the Golgi apparatus in providing a large, mobilizable zinc storage pool to assist in providing for the tremendous amount of zinc that is secreted into milk. Interestingly, our study also provides compelling evidence that mitochondrial zinc pools expand in the mammary gland during lactation which we speculate may play a role in regulating mammary gland function.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences