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Free access

Paolo Accornero, Silvia Miretti, Laura Starvaggi Cucuzza, Eugenio Martignani and Mario Baratta

The development of the mammary gland requires an integrated response to specific growth factors and steroid hormones. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its tyrosine kinase receptor, MET, are expressed and temporally regulated during mammary development and differentiation. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its ligands have also been implicated in mammary gland growth and morphogenesis. Since both cytokines seem to exert a morphogenic program in this tissue, we have investigated the possible concerted action of EGF and HGF on the HC11 cell line, a widely used model of nontumorigenic mammary cells. Western blot analysis indicated that HC11 expressed MET and EGFR, and showed ERK1/2 and AKT activation following HGF or EGF treatment. Analysis by real-time PCR and western blot showed that after an EGF but not HGF or insulin-like growth factor-I treatment, HC11 mammary cells exhibited an increase in MET expression at both the mRNA and protein levels, which was dependent on the AKT pathway. Simultaneous treatment with HGF and EGF increased proliferation, scatter, and invasion as assessed by cell count, cell cycle, scatter, and transwell assays. AKT inhibition did not influence the cooperation on proliferation or invasion after HGF+EGF treatment, while ERK1/2 inhibition abolished MET/EGFR cooperation on proliferation. HGF+EGF treatment increased the duration of ERK1/2 and AKT activation compared to HGF or EGF alone. All these data indicate that a crosstalk between the EGF and HGF pathways in mammary epithelial cells may modulate the development of the mammary gland.

Free access

Joseph E Morabito, Josephine F Trott, Dorian M Korz, Heather E Fairfield, Sarah H Buck and Russell C Hovey

Progesterone (P) and prolactin (PRL) fulfill crucial roles during growth and differentiation of the mammary epithelium, and each has been implicated in the pathogenesis of mammary cancer. We previously identified that these hormones synergistically stimulate the proliferation of mouse mammary epithelial cells in vivo, although the mechanism(s) underlying their cooperative effect are unknown. We now report a novel pathway by which P and PRL synergize to activate transcription from the long terminal repeat (LTR) of the mouse mammary tumor virus-LTR (MMTV-LTR) in T47D breast cancer cells. Using serial 5′ and 3′ deletions of the MMTV-LTR, in addition to selective mutations, we identified that a previously uncharacterized inverted palindrome on the distal enhancer (−941/−930), in addition to a signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 site, was essential for the synergistic activation of transcription by P and PRL. Notably, hormone synergy occurred via a mechanism that was independent of the P receptor DNA-binding elements found in the proximal MMTV-LTR hormone-response element. The palindrome specifically recruited a protein complex (herein termed mammary gland-specific complex) that was almost exclusive to normal and cancerous mammary cells. The synergy between P and PRL occurred via a Janus kinase 2 and c-Src/Fyn-dependent signaling cascade downstream of P and PRL receptors. Combined, our data outline a novel pathway in T47D cells that may facilitate the action(s) of P and PRL during mammary development and breast cancer.

Free access

M Karamouti, P Kollia, E Karligiotou, A Kallitsaris, N Prapas, G Kollios, K Seferiadis, N Vamvakopoulos and IE Messinis

Whether leptin is secreted by the human ovary is not known. The available data on leptin gene (ob gene) expression by human granulosa cells are conflicting. The aim of the present study was first to re-examine the expression of leptin messenger RNA (mRNA) by human granulosa cells and second to investigate if these cells have the ability to secrete leptin in cultures. Human luteinized granulosa cells were obtained from normal women undergoing in vitro fertilisation treatment after ovarian stimulation and follicle aspiration. The expression of ob gene was studied by Reverse-Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) both in primary granulosa cells treated immediately after oocyte recovery and in cells cultured up to 24 h under baseline and hormonally stimulated conditions (FSH: 100 ng/ml, LH: 100 ng/ml). ob mRNA transcripts were not detected in luteinized granulosa cells, while they were present in adipose tIssue cDNA. Actin gene expression was detected in all studied samples. Using a sensitive radioimmunoassay (lower limit of detection 0.05 ng/ml), leptin was undetectable in the culture media at all points during the 72 h cultures, while at the same time significant amounts of oestradiol and progesterone were produced particularly after the addition of androstendione (1 microM) to the incubation media. These results demonstrate for the first time that leptin is not secreted by human luteinized granulosa cells in cultures. From a physiological point of view, this may contribute to the development of the optimal follicular environment for oocyte maturation during the preovulatory period.

Free access

Hyeyeon Ko, WooDong Park, Dae-Jung Kim, Makito Kobayashi and Young Chang Sohn

Gonadotropins (GTHs), FSH and LH, play central roles in vertebrate reproduction. Here, we report the production of biologically-active recombinant FSH (r-mtFSH) and LH (r-mtLH) of an endangered salmon species, Manchurian trout (Brachymystax lenok), by baculovirus in silkworm (Bombyx mori) larvae. The biological activities of the recombinant hormones were analyzed using COS-7 cell line transiently expressing either amago salmon FSH or LH receptor. The steroidogenic potency of the r-mtFSH and r-mtLH was examined by a culture system using rainbow trout follicles in vitro. In vivo, bioactivity was assessed by measuring ovarian weight, oocyte diameter, and plasma steroid hormone levels in female rainbow trout. Moreover, inducing potency of milt production were examined in vivo using goldfish. Our results demonstrated that the r-mtFSH and r-mtLH were successfully produced in the baculovirus-silkworm system and recognized by their cognate receptors specifically in vitro. The production of estradiol-17β (E2) and testosterone (T) was stimulated by the r-mtFSH and r-mtLH respectively, from the full-grown follicles of rainbow trout, whereas both E2 and T were increased by relatively higher doses of the recombinant hormones from the follicles of the maturing stage. In in vivo assay, injection of the r-mtFSH but not r-mtLH increased ovarian weight, oocyte diameter, and plasma E2 levels in immature rainbow trout. Injection of both r-mtFSH and r-mtLH induced milt production in male goldfish. In conclusion, the present study strongly suggests that the r-mtFSH and r-mtLH have distinct biological properties, such as a specific responsiveness for the cognate receptor, steroidogenic, and vitellogenic activities for ovarian follicles in salmonids. These recombinant FSH and LH may be applied for future studies on the gonadal development and maturation in fishes as well as the endangered salmon species.

Free access

Anke Schennink, Josephine F Trott, Bradley A Freking and Russell C Hovey

Endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine prolactin (PRL) acts through its receptor (PRLR) to confer a wide range of biological functions, including its established role during lactation. We have identified a novel first exon of the porcine PRLR that gives rise to three different mRNA transcripts. Transcription of this first exon is tissue specific, where it increases during gestation in the adrenal glands and uterus. Within the mammary glands, its transcription is induced by estrogen and PRL, while in the uterus, its expression is downregulated by progestin. The promoter region has an enhancer element located between −453 and −424 bp and a putative repressor element between −648 and −596 bp. Estrogen, acting through the estrogen receptor, activates transcription from this promoter through both E-box and transcription factor AP-2 α binding sites. These findings support the concept that the multilevel hormonal regulation of PRLR transcription contributes to the various biological functions of PRL.

Free access

JD Graham, SM Hunt, N Tran and CL Clarke

The mammalian testis-determining gene Sry and the related Sox genes define a family of transcriptional regulators widely expressed during embryogenesis. Tightly controlled temporal profiles of expression are a feature of the Sox gene family and may be required for initiation of a cascade of gene expression, yet the molecular mechanisms that control Sox gene expression are unknown. We now show that human SOX4 is expressed in the normal breast and in breast cancer cells. In these cells SOX4 is a progesterone-regulated gene, the expression of which is increased by progestins, leading to a marked increase in SOX-mediated transcriptional activity. Treatment of T-47D breast cancer cells with the synthetic progestin ORG 2058 directly increased SOX4 transcription, resulting in a 4-fold increase in SOX4 mRNA levels within 4 h of treatment. No effect of ORG 2058 was noted on other SOX genes measured, nor were other hormone-regulated HMG box proteins detected in this system, suggesting that the observed ability of progestin to increase SOX mRNA expression was confined to SOX4. The increase in SOX4 transcription was reflected in increased SOX4 protein expression, as progestin treatment of T-47D cells transfected with a SOX-responsive reporter resulted in a marked increase in reporter gene expression. Progesterone is essential for normal development and differentiation of the female reproductive system, plays an essential role in regulating growth and differentiation of the mammary gland and is required for opposing the proliferative effects of estrogen in specific cell types. The detection of SOX4 expression in the normal and malignant breast and the demonstration that SOX4 expression is under progesterone control suggests that changes in SOX4 gene expression may play a role in commitment to the differentiated phenotype in the normal and malignant mammary gland.

Restricted access

R Escalante, L-M Houdebine and M Pamblanco


We have investigated the physiological factors which regulate transferrin gene expression in the mammary gland of the rat. Our studies by dot blot analysis have demonstrated that multiple doses of 17β-oestradiol (OE2; 0·5 mg/kg per day for 3 days) elicit a specific 3·5-fold increase in the transferrin mRNA levels in the mammary glands of virgin rats. The hormonal action of OE2 in mammary tissue was specific for the transferrin gene, as judged by hybridization with β-actin cDNA. The accmulation of transferrin mRNA induced by OE2 treatment was similar to the developmentally regulated expression of the gene observed during the reproductive cycle. The steady-state level of mammary transferrin mRNA increased by up to 4·5-fold at day 21 of lactation, when compared with virgin and pregnant rats. Our results show that the pattern of transferrin gene expression is different in mouse and rat mammary glands. The specific response of the transferrin gene to OE2 was not found in the liver or in the uterus. In the uterus alone, OE2 produced a significant increase in the content of nucleic acids and also induced the accumulation of transferrin and β-actin mRNAs. We have detected for the first time an induction of transferrin gene expression in the mammary gland in response to OE2, and these results support the view that the pattern of transferrin gene multimodulated expression is tissue- and species-specific.

Free access

J J Allen, S L Herrick and J E Fortune

In cattle, primordial follicles form before birth. Fetal ovarian capacity to produce progesterone and estradiol is high before follicle formation begins and decreases around the time follicles first appear (around 90 days of gestation). However, mechanisms that regulate steroid production during this time remain unclear. We hypothesized that LH stimulates progesterone and androgen production and that FSH stimulates aromatization of androgens to estradiol. To test this, we cultured pieces from fetal bovine ovaries for 10 days without or with exogenous hormones and then measured the accumulation of steroids in the culture medium by RIA. LH (100 ng/mL) alone increased the accumulation of progesterone, androstenedione, testosterone and estradiol. FSH (100 ng/mL) alone increased both progesterone and estradiol accumulation, but had no effect on androgens. Exogenous testosterone (0.5 µM) alone greatly increased estradiol accumulation and the combination of testosterone + FSH, but not testosterone + LH, increased estradiol relative to testosterone alone. Interestingly, exogenous testosterone and estradiol decreased progesterone accumulation in a dose-dependent manner. Because the highest dose of estradiol (0.5 µM) decreased progesterone accumulation, but increased both pregnenolone and androstenedione in the same cultures, endogenous estradiol may be a paracrine regulator of steroid synthesis. Together, these results confirm our initial hypotheses and indicate that LH stimulates androgen production in fetal bovine ovaries via the Δ5 pathway, whereas FSH stimulates aromatization of androgens to estradiol. These results are consistent with the two-cell, two-gonadotropin model of estradiol production by bovine preovulatory follicles, which suggests that the mechanisms regulating ovarian steroid production are established during fetal life.

Free access

L L Burger, D J Haisenleder, A C Dalkin and J C Marshall

Reproductive function in mammals is regulated by the pituitary gonadotropins luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH and FSH are secreted by the gonadotrope cell and act on the gonad in a sequential and synergistic manner to initiate sexual maturation and maintain cyclic reproductive function. The synthesis and secretion of LH and FSH are regulated mainly by the pulsatile release of the hypothalamic decapeptide hormone gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). The control of differential LH and FSH synthesis and secretion is complex and involves the interplay between the gonads, hypothalamus and pituitary. In this review, the transcriptional regulation of the gonadotropin subunit genes is discussed in a physiologic setting, and we aimed to examine the mechanisms that drive those changes.

Free access

M Boutinaud, JH Shand, MA Park, K Phillips, J Beattie, DJ Flint and GJ Allan

We have used quantitative RT-PCR to analyse the mRNA expression profile of the major components of the IGF axis in different stages of murine mammary gland development, including late pregnancy, lactation and involution. We have shown that all the genes studied, IGF-I, IGF-II, IGF receptor (IGFR) and IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-1 to -6, were expressed in every stage, albeit at greatly differing levels and displaying unique expression profiles between developmental stages. IGF-I was always expressed at significantly higher levels than either IGF-II or IGFR. This suggests that IGF-I may be the more important IGF during mammary morphogenesis. Overall, IGFBP-3 demonstrated the highest level of expression of any of the IGFBP genes throughout all the developmental stages studied. However, within developmental stages, by far the highest level of expression of any of the IGFBPs was that of IGFBP-5 at day 2 of involution; this was almost an order of magnitude higher than any of the other IGFBP levels recorded. This corroborated our previous findings that the levels of IGFBP-5 protein are highly elevated in the involuting mammary gland, and demonstrated that this up-regulation of IGFBP-5 operates at the level of transcriptional control or message stability. Comparison of the expression profile for these different genes would strongly suggest that they are likely to have differential functions throughout mammary gland development, and also highlights potential interactions and co-regulation between different members of this axis. In addition, our results have identified some similarities and differences in the expression of IGFBPs between the mouse mammary epithelial cell line, HC11, and the normal mammary gland which are worthy of study, most notably the differential regulation of IGFBP-2 and the site of expression of IGFBP-4 and -6. Overall, this study has demonstrated the importance and complexity of the IGF axis during mammary gland development and provides a valuable resource for future research in this area.