Transgenic goats engineered to secrete the human protein cholinesterase
into their milk produced less milk, with lower fat and lactose levels
and unusually high white blood cell counts.
Goat (Capra aegagrus).
Human butyryl-cholinesterase gene, which produces a protein with
pharmaceutical applications. Gene expression was controlled by the
promoter for goat beta-casein (a milk protein).
Goal of These Studies:
Compare the lactation of goats expressing the transgenic protein
with half-siblings that do not contain the transgene.
High levels of the transgenic protein (1 to 5 g/L) were produced in
the goat milk.
Milk production in the GM goats began to deteriorate in both quantity
and quality beginning in the second week of lactation. Over the course
of the 70-day study, the average daily milk production of the transgenic
goats was only half that of the non-GM goats (0.9 versus 1.9 kg/day).
After one week of milk production, the amount of fat in the transgenic
goat milk dropped from 4-5% to 1-2% and remained at that level, while the
non-GM goats continued to produce milk with 5% fat for another four
The lactose content of the GM goat milk began to steadily decline after
three weeks of milking, but the non-GM goat milk lactose concentration
As lactation progressed, the amount of sodium in the GM milk increased
while the potassium concentration decreased. Because milk is enriched
in potassium and impoverished in sodium relative to the interstitial
spaces of the mammary gland, these changes indicated a deterioration
of the membrane that separates the milk space from the interior of the
Unusually large numbers of white blood cells were detected in the GM
goat milk, and this problem increased over time. Although high cell
counts normally indicate a mammary gland infection (mastitis), physical
examination of the udder and bacterial testing of the milk revealed no
indication of an infection.
Baldarasse, H., D. K. Hockley, M. Dore, E. Brochu et al. (2008).
"Lactation Performance of Transgenic Goats Expressing Recombinant Human
Butyryl-Cholinesterase in the Milk," Transgenic Research vol. 17,
PharmAthene Inc., Montreal, Canada; University of Montreal, Canada; McGill
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