Mammary gland morphological and gene expression changes underlying pregnancy protection of breast cancer tumorigenesis

Laboratory of Lactation and Mammary Gland Biology, Department of Animal Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA.
Physiological Genomics (Impact Factor: 2.81). 11/2011; 44(1):76-88. DOI: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00056.2011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A full-term pregnancy early in life reduces lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and the effect can be mimicked in rodents by full-term pregnancy or short-term treatment with exogenous estrogen and progesterone. To gain insight into the protective mechanism, 15 3-mo-old postpubertal virgin Lewis rats were randomly assigned to three groups: control (C), pregnancy (P), or hormone (H). The P group animals underwent a full-term pregnancy, and H group animals were implanted subcutaneously with silastic capsules filled with ethynyl estradiol and megesterol acetate for 21 days. C and P animals were implanted with sham capsules. On day 21 capsules were removed, which was followed by a 49-day involution period, euthanasia, and mammary tissue collection. Global gene expression was measured using Rat Genome 230.2 Arrays. Histological analysis revealed that P and H treatments induced sustained morphological changes in the mammary gland with significantly increased percentages of mammary parenchyma and stromal tissues and higher ratio of stroma to parenchyma. Transcriptome analysis showed that P and H treatments induced sustained global changes in gene expression in the mammary gland. Analysis of commonly up- and downregulated genes in P and H relative to C treatment showed increased expression of three matrix metallopeptidases (Mmp3, 8, and 12), more differentiated mammary phenotype, enhanced innate and adaptive immunity, and reduced cell proliferation and angiogenic signatures. The sustained morphological and global gene expression changes in mammary tissue after pregnancy and hormone treatment may function together to provide the protective effect against breast cancer.

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    ABSTRACT: Pregnancy and its effects on breast cancer risk have been widely investigated; there is consensus among researchers that early pregnancy confers protection against breast cancer later in life, whereas nulliparity and late-age parity have been associated with increased risk of developing breast cancer. The answer to the question of how pregnancy reduces breast cancer risk has been elusive; however, pregnancy, like breast cancer, is a similar hormone-dependent entity under direct control of estrogen, progesterone and, of particular importance, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). In this report, we emphasize the main changes, previously described by our laboratory, in morphology and gene expression levels of the mammary gland of Sprague-Dawley rats exposed to known cancer-preventative conditions (pregnancy, hCG and progesterone + estrogen). In addition, we postulate a protective mechanism induced by hCG that could reduce the cell's potential to be transformed by carcinogens.
    07/2013; 2(4):283-294. DOI:10.2217/bmt.13.16
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    ABSTRACT: Pregnancy can both reduce and increase lifetime breast cancer risk, and it also induces a short-term, transient increase in risk. Several biological mechanisms have been proposed to explain the protective effect, including pregnancy-induced increase in circulating estrogen levels leading to reduced estrogen receptor (ER) expression and activity. Persistent changes in ER-regulated gene expression may then alter the response of the breast to postpregnancy hormonal exposures originating, for example, from food. Understanding how pregnancy increases breast cancer risk has received less attention. Human studies indicate that those women who were exposed to an elevated pregnancy estrogenic environment, such as women who took the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol or who had the highest circulating estrogen levels at the beginning or end of pregnancy, are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. There is also evidence that elevated leptin levels, for example, in pregnant women who gained excessive amount of weight, increase later breast cancer risk. This may reflect a close interaction between estradiol (E2), ER, and leptin. Our preclinical study suggests that an exposure to excess pregnancy E2 and leptin levels reverses the protective changes in genomic signaling pathways seen in the breast/mammary gland of parous women and rodents. Recent findings indicate that involution – the period after lactation when the breast regresses back to prepregnancy stage – may be related to some pregnancy-associated breast cancers. Importantly, in a preclinical model, the increase can be reversed by anti-inflammatory treatment, offering hope that the increase in lifelong breast cancer risk induced by late first pregnancy or by an exposure of pregnant women to an excessive hormonal environment may be reversible.
    Hormone molecular biology and clinical investigation 01/2012; 9(1):11-23. DOI:10.1515/hmbci-2012-0019
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    ABSTRACT: Prolactin (PRL) is a key player in the development of mammary cancer. We studied the effects of parity or hyperprolactinemia on mammary carcinogenesis in OFA hr/hr treated with 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene. They were divided into three groups: nulliparous (Null), primiparous (PL, after pregnancy and lactation), and hyperprolactinemic rats (I, implanted in the arcuate nucleus with 17β-estradiol). The tumor incidence was similar in the three groups. However, a higher percentage of regressing tumors was evident in the PL group. Serum PRL, mammary development, and mammary β-casein content were higher in I rats compared to Null. The expression of hormone receptors was similar in the different groups. However, mammary tissue from PL rats bearing tumors had increased expression of PRL and estrogen alpha receptors compared to rats free of tumors. Our results suggest that serum PRL levels do not have relevance on the incidence of tumors, probably because the low levels of PRL in OFA rats are not further decreased by PL like in other strains. However, supraphysiological levels of PRL affect carcinogenesis. PL induces regression of the tumors due to the differentiation produced on the mammary cells. Alterations in the expression of hormonal receptors may be involved in progression and regression of tumors.
    BioMed Research International 07/2014; 2014:210424. DOI:10.1155/2014/210424 · 2.71 Impact Factor
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