Ruminant placental lactogens: structure and biology.

J. C. Byatt, W. C. Warren, P. J. Eppard, N. R. Staten, G. G. Krivi, Robert J Collier

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Ruminant placental lactogens (PL) are members of the somatotropin, prolactin gene family that are synthesized by trophectodermal binucleate cells. The structure and biology of PL has been studied in the cow, sheep, and goat. Ruminant PL have greater structural identity to prolactin than somatotropin, although they bind to both lactogenic and somatogenic receptors. The molecular weights of ovine and caprine PL are approximately 23,000, whereas bovine PL is larger (31,000 to 34,000) due to glycosylation. Placental lactogen is secreted into both the fetal and maternal circulations. The concentration of PL in the fetus decreases with advancing gestation, whereas PL concentration peaks in the maternal circulation during the last third of pregnancy then reaches a plateau. Furthermore, the maternal concentration of PL is 100- to 1,000-fold higher in sheep and goats than in cows. The precise factors that modulate secretion of PL are unknown, although placental mass and nutrition seem to play a role. Ruminant PL have both lactogenic and somatogenic biological activities and may also have unique activities mediated through a specific receptor. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that PL plays a role in stimulating mammogenesis. Placental lactogen secreted into the fetal compartment may also help regulate fetal growth. Direct experimental data indicate that PL can regulate maternal intermediary metabolism. Thus, it may act as a partitioning agent to regulate nutrient supply for fetal growth. The precise biological function of PL in ruminants, therefore, still needs to be defined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2911-2923
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1992
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Byatt, J. C., Warren, W. C., Eppard, P. J., Staten, N. R., Krivi, G. G., & Collier, R. J. (1992). Ruminant placental lactogens: structure and biology. Journal of Animal Science, 70(9), 2911-2923.