During lactation, mammary epithelial cells (MECs) form the blood-milk barrier by less-permeable tight junctions (TJs) to prevent the leakage of milk components. Phytoestrogens affect the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of MECs. However, it remains unclear whether phytoestrogens are involved in the blood-milk barrier. Therefore, we investigated the influence of phytoestrogens (coumestrol, genistein, and daidzein) by using an in vitro mouse-MEC-culture model. The results showed that coumestrol and genistein changed the expression of TJ proteins (claudins-3 and -4 and occludin), weakened barrier function, and reduced β-casein production. Daidzein also weakened barrier function without inhibiting β-casein production. Additionally, coumestrol and genistein induced apoptosis in MECs. These results indicate that phytoestrogens weaken the blood-milk barrier by directly affecting TJs and the cellular viability of lactating MECs in different ways.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)