Breastfeeding is important for mammals, providing immunological and microbiological advantages to neonates, together with the nutritional supply from the mother. However, the mechanisms of this functional diversity in the mammary gland remain poorly characterized. Here, we show that, similar to the gastrointestinal tract, the mammary gland develops immune and microbial environments consisting of immunoglobulin A (IgA) and the microflora, respectively, both of which are important for protecting neonates and the mother from infectious diseases. The IgA production and microflora development are coordinated in the gastrointestinal tract but seem to be independently regulated in the mammary gland. In particular, the chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 28 and poly-Ig receptor, crucial molecules for the IgA production in milk, were expressed normally in germ-free lactating mice but were almost undetectable in postweaning mothers, regardless of the microflora presence. Our findings offer insights into potentially improving the quality of breastfeeding, using both immunological and microbiological approaches.
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