Serotonin Regulates Lactation | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 43 | p. 48 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 22, 2007

Serotonin Regulates Lactation

Department: Science & Technology

A new study reports that the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is produced in the brain and intestinal tract, is also produced in human mammary glands, where it controls milk production and secretion (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708136104). Studies with human mammary cells and with mice show that the concentration of serotonin builds up in mammary glands as they fill with milk. The increase in serotonin inhibits further milk synthesis and secretion by suppressing expression of milk protein genes, according to physiologist Nelson D. Horseman of the University of Cincinnati and colleagues. After nursing, the cycle of milk and serotonin production begins again. The researchers note that the presence of so-called serotonin reuptake proteins in mammary cells "raises the possibility that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors," which are used to treat depression, "could have effects on the breast or milk." They add that the findings could be used to develop new methods to enhance milk production in the dairy industry.

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