The mammary epithelium is indispensable for the continued survival of more than 5000 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 milk ejection. Using quantitative, multidimensional imaging of mammary cell ensembles, we reveal how stimulus-evoked Ca2+ oscillations couple to contraction in basal epithelial cells. Moreover, we show that Ca2+-dependent contractions generate the requisite force to physically-deform the innermost layer of luminal cells, forcing 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 is delivered into the mouth of the dependent neonate, seconds after the command.
Stevenson, A. J., Vanwallegham, G., Stewart, T. A., Condon, N. D., Lloyd-Lewis, B., Marino, N., Putney, J. W., Scott, E., Ewing, A. D., & Davis, F. M. (2019). Multiscale activity imaging in the mammary gland reveals how oxytocin enables lactation. Manuscript submitted for publication. https://doi.org/10.1101/657510