Procedures, such as teat removal (thelectomy) or teat duct ligation, which prevent removal of milk, lead to rapid involution of the lactating mammary gland; performed unilaterally they have been used previously to study the biochemistry of involution1–3, enabling a comparison of normal and involuting glands in the same animal against the same systematic hormonal environment. Both the protein hormone prolactin and the steroid hormone oestrogen are of importance in the development and function of the mammary gland4. In the present experiments, female Sprague–Dawley rats were unilaterally thelectomised and the binding to the mammary gland of prolactin and oestrogen was examined through pregnancy, lactation and weaning. There was an effect of thelectomy during lactation only, when levels of both receptors increased in the intact lactating gland but failed to rise in the thelectomised, involuting gland. Capillary closure is known to occur in the mammary glands of rats after 36–48 h of milk accumulation5. The rate of delivery of hormones to the tissue will be drastically reduced and it is concluded that this, rather than systemic hormone levels, is of importance in controlling receptor levels.
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