Mammary glands exhibit molecular laterality and undergo left-right asymmetric ductal epithelial growth in MMTV-cNeu mice*

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Significant left-right (L-R) differences in tumor incidence and disease outcome occur for cancers of paired organs, including the breasts; however, the basis for this laterality is unknown. Here, we show that despite their morphologic symmetry, left versus right mammary glands in wild-type mice have baseline differences in gene expression that are L-R independently regulated during pubertal development, including genes that regulate luminal progenitor cell renewal, luminal cell differentiation, mammary tumorigenesis, tamoxifen sensitivity and chemotherapeutic resistance. In MMTV-cNeuTg/Tg mice, which model HER2/Neu-amplified breast cancer, baseline L-R differences in mammary gene expression are amplified, sustained or inverted in a gene-specific manner and the mammary ductal epithelium undergoes L-R asymmetric growth and patterning. Comparative genomic analysis of mouse L-R mammary gene expression profiles with gene expression profiles of human breast tumors revealed significant linkage between right-sided gene expression and decreased breast cancer patient survival. Collectively, these findings are the first to demonstrate that mammary glands are lateralized organs, and, moreover, that mammary glands have L-R differential susceptibility to HER2/Neu oncogene-mediated effects on ductal epithelial growth and differentiation. We propose that intrinsic molecular laterality may have a role in L-R asymmetric breast tumor incidence and, furthermore, that interplay between the L-R molecular landscape and oncogene activity may contribute to the differential disease progression and patient outcome that are associated with tumor situs.

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