We examined the association between plasma insulin concentration and fatty acid distribution to milk fat and membrane fractions (triglyceride and phospholipid, respectively) in dairy cows. Thirty-seven Holstein cows at 60 to 70 d postpartum were synchronized by 2 PGF 2α injections 14 d apart. Plasma samples were taken before morning and evening milkings and milk samples were obtained at morning milking. Plasma insulin concentrations were determined and cows were retrospectively assigned to low insulin (LI; 2.8±0.2ng/mL, n=6) or high insulin (HI; 5.9±0.6ng/mL, n=7) experimental groups. Fatty acid analysis of milk samples demonstrated a possible association between plasma insulin concentration and the fatty acid composition in phospholipid and triglyceride fractions. In the HI group, monounsaturated fatty acid concentration tended to be higher in the triglyceride (Tg) fraction than the phospholipids (Pl) fraction. In the LI group, the concentrations of short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids (<16 carbon chain length), considered de novo-synthesized fatty acids, were higher in the triglyceride fraction than the phospholipid fraction. These results imply that the primary source of saturated fatty acids for phospholipid synthesis, in both HI and LI groups, is the circulation, as reflected by a higher concentration of longer saturated fatty acids (>16 carbon chain length) in the phospholipid fraction. Finally, the phospholipid-to-triglyceride ratio was higher in the HI group than in the LI group. Together, the results indicate that fatty acid distribution between phospholipid (membrane) and triglyceride (fat) synthesis by the mammary gland is associated with fatty acid length, degree of unsaturation, and origin, and might be subject to metabolic hormone regulation. Furthermore, a lower triglyceride-to-phospholipid ratio in the HI group implies that high plasma insulin and low milk fat concentrations are associated with a shift in the size distribution of milk fat globules.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israeli Dairy Board grant no. 870-0261 and the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture grant no. 820-0254 .
- Mammary gland
- Milk fat