Open Access Research article

Lactation transcriptomics in the Australian marsupial, Macropus eugenii: transcript sequencing and quantification

Christophe M Lefèvre12*, Matthew R Digby1, Jane C Whitley3, Yvan Strahm2 and Kevin R Nicholas1

Author Affiliations

1 CRC for Innovative Dairy Products, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, VIC, 3010, Australia

2 Victorian Bioinformatics Consortium, Monash University, Clayton VIC 3080

3 Department of Primary Industries, 475 Mickleham Rd, Attwood, VIC 3045, Australia

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:417  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-417

Published: 13 November 2007



Lactation is an important aspect of mammalian biology and, amongst mammals, marsupials show one of the most complex lactation cycles. Marsupials, such as the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) give birth to a relatively immature newborn and progressive changes in milk composition and milk production regulate early stage development of the young.


In order to investigate gene expression in the marsupial mammary gland during lactation, a comprehensive set of cDNA libraries was derived from lactating tissues throughout the lactation cycle of the tammar wallaby. A total of 14,837 express sequence tags were produced by cDNA sequencing. Sequence analysis and sequence assembly were used to construct a comprehensive catalogue of mammary transcripts.

Sequence data from pregnant and early or late lactating specific cDNA libraries and, data from early or late lactation massively parallel sequencing strategies were combined to analyse the variation of milk protein gene expression during the lactation cycle.


Results show a steady increase in expression of genes coding for secreted protein during the lactation cycle that is associated with high proportion of transcripts coding for milk proteins. In addition, genes involved in immune function, translation and energy or anabolic metabolism are expressed across the lactation cycle. A number of potential new milk proteins or mammary gland remodelling markers, including noncoding RNAs have been identified.