Multiscale imaging of basal cell dynamics in the functionally mature mammary gland

Alexander J. Stevenson, Gilles Vanwalleghem, Teneale A. Stewart, Nicholas D. Condon, Bethan Lloyd-Lewis, Natascia Marino, James W. Putney, Ethan K. Scott, Adam D. Ewing, Felicity M. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The mammary epithelium is indispensable for the continued survival of more than 5,000 mammalian species. For some, the volume of milk ejected in a single day exceeds their entire blood volume. Here, we unveil the spatiotemporal properties of physiological signals that orchestrate the ejection of milk from alveolar units and its passage along the mammary ductal network. Using quantitative, multidimensional imaging of mammary cell ensembles from GCaMP6 transgenic mice, we reveal how stimulus evoked Ca 2+ oscillations couple to contractions in basal epithelial cells. Moreover, we show that Ca 2+-dependent contractions generate the requisite force to physically deform the innermost layer of luminal cells, compelling them to discharge the fluid that they produced and housed. Through the collective action of thousands of these biological positive-displacement pumps, each linked to a contractile ductal network, milk begins its passage toward the dependent neonate, seconds after the command.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Pages (from-to)26822-26832
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020


  • Calcium signaling
  • GCaMP6
  • Lactation
  • Mammary gland
  • Oxytocin
  • Mammary Glands, Human/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Epithelial Cells/physiology
  • Myosin Light Chains/metabolism
  • Mammary Glands, Animal/cytology
  • Animals
  • Milk Ejection
  • Mice
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Intravital Microscopy


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