Effect of exogenous epidermal-like growth factors on mammary gland development and differentiation in the estrogen receptor-alpha knockout (ERKO) mouse

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SummaryThe development of the mouse mammary gland requires the interaction between several different ovarian and pituitary hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and prolactin as well as several locally-derived growth factors in the mammary gland such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor α (TGFα), amphiregulin (AR) and heregulin (HRG). The focus of this study was to investigate the degree of mammary growth and differentiation in the adult, virgin mammary gland of wild type (wt) and estrogen receptor knockout (ERKO) females that lack estrogen receptor α (ERα) after reciprocal transplantation into the cleared mammary fat pad of virgin wt or ERKO mice. In addition, we assessed the local response of ERKO mammary tissue to TGFα or HRGβ1 delivered from slow release-Elvax pellets. Our initial results indicated that when we transplanted virgin wt mammary tissue into ERKO mammary fat pads, mammary morphogenesis failed to occur. However, when transplanted virgin ERKO mammary tissue was transplanted into fat pads of virgin or pregnant wt mice, the development and differentiation of lobuloalveoli was readily observed. In addition, treatment of the virgin ERKO mammary gland with TGFα or HRGβ1 stimulated ducts to undergo localized branching and growth and both growth factors induced secretory differentiation as evidenced by the production of milk proteins, caseins and/or whey acidic protein (WAP). The results from this study imply that in ERKO mammary tissue, ERKO ductal epithelium has the capacity to proliferate and differentiate in response to non-estrogenic, morphogenic stimuli.

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