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γδ T cells are the predominant T cell type in opossum mammaries during lactation

Fehrenkamp, Bethaney D., Miller, Robert D.
Developmental and comparative immunology 2019
Monodelphis domestica, T-lymphocytes, adaptive immunity, animal tissues, epithelial cells, evolution, immunohistochemistry, lactation, mammary glands, milk, neonates, nutritional support, opossums, passive immunity, weaning
Milk provides mammalian neonates with nutritional support and passive immunity. This is particularly true in marsupials where young are born highly altricial and lacking many components of a fully functional adaptive immune system. Here we investigated the T cell populations in the mammaries of a lactating marsupial, the gray short-tailed opossum Monodelphis domestica. Immunohistochemistry confirmed the presence of T cells within the opossum mammaries throughout lactation. Results of quantifying transcript abundance for lymphocyte markers are consistent with γδ T cells being the most common T cell type within lactating mammaries. Numbers of γδ T cells appear to peak early during the first postnatal week, and then decline throughout lactation until weaning. In contrast, numbers of αβ T cells and γμ T cells appear to be low to non-existent in the lactating mammaries. The results support an ancient and conserved role of immune cells in the evolution and function of mammalian mammary tissue.