[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: WNT signaling stimulates the self-renewal of many types of adult stem cells, including mammary stem cells (MaSCs), but mechanisms that limit this activity are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that SLIT2 restricts stem cell renewal by signaling through ROBO2 in a subset of basal cells to negatively regulate WNT signaling. The absence of SLIT/ROBO2 signaling leads to increased levels of nuclear β-catenin. Robo2 loss does not increase the number of stem cells; instead, stem cell renewal is enhanced in the absence of SLIT/ROBO2 signaling. This is due to repressed expression of p16(INK4a), which, in turn, delays MaSC senescence. Together, our studies support a model in which SLITs restrict the expansion of MaSCs by countering the activity of WNTs and limiting self-renewal.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the field of breast biology, there is a growing appreciation for the "gatekeeping function" of basal cells during development and disease processes yet mechanisms regulating the generation of these cells are poorly understood. Here, we report that the proliferation of basal cells is controlled by SLIT/ROBO1 signaling and that production of these cells regulates outgrowth of mammary branches. We identify the negative regulator TGF-β1 upstream of Robo1 and show that it induces Robo1 expression specifically in the basal layer, functioning together with SLIT2 to restrict branch formation. Loss of SLIT/ROBO1 signaling in this layer alone results in precocious branching due to a surplus of basal cells. SLIT2 limits basal cell proliferation by inhibiting canonical WNT signaling, increasing the cytoplasmic and membrane pools of β-catenin at the expense of its nuclear pool. Together, our studies provide mechanistic insight into how specification of basal cell number influences branching morphogenesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Formation of the vascular system within organs requires the balanced action of numerous positive and negative factors secreted by stromal and epithelial cells. Here, we used a genetic approach to determine the role of SLITs in regulating the growth and organization of blood vessels in the mammary gland. We demonstrate that vascularization of the gland is not affected by loss of Slit expression in the epithelial compartment. Instead, we identify a stromal source of SLIT, mural cells encircling blood vessels, and show that loss of Slit in the stroma leads to elevated blood vessel density and complexity. We examine candidate SLIT receptors, Robo1 and Robo4, and find that increased vessel angiogenesis is phenocopied by loss of endothelial-specific Robo4, as long as it is combined with the presence of an angiogenic stimulus such as preneoplasia or pregnancy. In contrast, loss of Robo1 does not affect blood vessel growth. The enhanced growth of blood vessels in Robo4(-/-) endothelium is due to activation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-R2 signaling through the Src and FAK kinases. Thus, our studies present a genetic dissection of SLIT/ROBO signaling during organ development. We identify a stromal, rather than epithelial, source of SLITs that inhibits blood vessel growth by signaling through endothelial ROBO4 to down-regulate VEGF/VEGFR2 signaling.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2010; 107(23):10520-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genes encoding Slits and their Robo receptors are silenced in many types of cancer, including breast, suggesting a role for this signaling pathway in suppressing tumorigenesis. The molecular mechanism underlying these tumor-suppressive effects has not been delineated. Here, we show that loss of Slits, or their Robo1 receptor, in murine mammary gland or human breast carcinoma cells results in coordinate up-regulation of the Sdf1 and Cxcr4 signaling axis, specifically within mammary epithelium. This is accompanied by hyperplastic changes in cells and desmoplastic alterations in the surrounding stroma. A similar inverse correlation between Slit and Cxcr4 expression is identified in human breast tumor tissues. Furthermore, we show in a xenograft model that Slit overexpression down-regulates CXCR4 and dominantly suppresses tumor growth. These studies classify Slits as negative regulators of Sdf1 and Cxcr4 and identify a molecular signature in hyperplastic breast lesions that signifies inappropriate up-regulation of key prometastatic genes.
Cancer Research 11/2008; 68(19):7819-27. · 9.28 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In addition to their role as chemorepellent netrin-1 receptors, UNC5 proteins may mediate cell death because they induce apoptosis in cultured cells. To test this in vivo, we generated Unc5a (formerly Unc5h1) knockout mice and found that this deletion decreased apoptosis and increased the number of neurons in the spinal cord. In contrast, loss of netrin-1 (Ntn1) did not affect the amount of apoptosis, suggesting that NTN1 is not required for neuronal apoptosis in vivo.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Development of many organs, including the mammary gland, involves ductal morphogenesis. Mammary ducts are bi-layered tubular structures comprising an outer layer of cap/myoepithelial cells (MECs) and an inner layer of luminal epithelial cells (LECs). Slit2 is expressed by cells in both layers, with secreted SLIT2 broadly distributed throughout the epithelial compartment. By contrast, Robo1 is expressed specifically by cap/MECs. Loss-of-function mutations in Slit2 and Robo1 yield similar phenotypes, characterized by disorganized end buds (EBs) reminiscent of those present in Ntn1(-/-) glands, suggesting that SLIT2 and NTN1 function in concert during mammary development. Analysis of Slit2(-/-);Ntn1(-/-) glands demonstrates an enhanced phenotype that extends through the ducts and is characterized by separated cell layers and occluded lumens. Aggregation assays show that Slit2(-/-);Ntn1(-/-) cells, in contrast to wild-type cells, do not form bi-layered organoids, a defect rescued by addition of SLIT2. NTN1 has no effect alone, but synergistically enhances this rescue. Thus, our data establish a novel role for SLIT2 as an adhesive cue, acting in parallel with NTN1 to generate cell boundaries along ducts during bi-layered tube formation.
Development 04/2006; 133(5):823-32. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The UNC5Hs are axon guidance receptors that mediate netrin-1-dependent chemorepulsion, and dependence receptors that mediate netrin-1-independent apoptosis. Here, we report an interaction between UNC5H1 and NRAGE. Our experiments show that this interaction is responsible for apoptosis induced by UNC5H1, and this level of apoptosis is greater than the amount induced by either UNC5H2 or UNC5H3. We mapped the NRAGE binding domain of UNC5H1 to its ZU-5 domain and show that this region, in addition to an adjacent PEST sequence, is required for UNC5H1-mediated apoptosis. Chimeric UNC5H2 and UNC5H3 receptors, containing the NRAGE binding domain and PEST sequence of UNC5H1, bind NRAGE and cause increased levels of apoptosis. UNC5H1 expression does not induce apoptosis in differentiated PC12 cells, which down-regulate NRAGE, but induces apoptosis in native PC12 cells that endogenously express high levels of NRAGE and in differentiated PC12 cells when NRAGE is overexpressed. Together, these results demonstrate a mechanism for UNC5H1-mediated apoptosis that requires an interaction with the MAGE protein NRAGE.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 06/2003; 278(19):17483-90. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Netrin-1 and its receptors play an essential role patterning the nervous system by guiding neurons and axons to their targets. To explore whether netrin-1 organizes nonneural tissues, we examined its role in mammary gland morphogenesis. Netrin-1 is expressed in prelumenal cells, and its receptor neogenin is expressed in a complementary pattern in adjacent cap cells of terminal end buds (TEBs). We discovered that loss of either gene results in disorganized TEBs characterized by exaggerated subcapsular spaces, breaks in basal lamina, dissociated cap cells, and an increased influx of cap cells into the prelumenal compartment. Cell aggregation assays demonstrate that neogenin mediates netrin-1-dependent cell clustering. Thus, netrin-1 appears to act locally through neogenin to stabilize the multipotent progenitor (cap) cell layer during mammary gland development. Our results suggest that netrin-1 and its receptor neogenin provide an adhesive, rather than a guidance, function during nonneural organogenesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Since the advent of transmission electron microscopy of tissues capable of growth and regeneration, cell and developmental biologists have postulated that the undifferentiated cells observed within these tissues represent tissue-specific stem or progenitor cells. However, no studies have addressed the issue of whether these undifferentiated, putative stem cells persist in growth senescent tissues. Serially transplanted mammary epithelium consistently displays growth senescence beginning at the third transplant generation. This process is not uniform throughout the transplanted population and complete growth quiescence for all portions of a given outgrowth is reached subsequent to the 6th transplant generation. Mammary epithelial cells bearing the morphological characteristics of undifferentiated stem cells likewise disappear from senescent populations simultaneous with growth cessation. In premalignant mammary epithelial populations, which exhibit indefinitely prolonged growth potential, both of these cell types are maintained. This observation provides further support for the conclusion that these ultrastructurally distinct mammary cells represent the mammary stem/progenitor cell population.
Cell and Tissue Research 01/2003; 310(3):313-20. · 3.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The hedgehog signal transduction network performs critical roles in mediating cell–cell interactions during embryogenesis and organogenesis. Loss-of-function or misexpression mutation of hedgehog network components can cause birth defects, skin cancer, and other tumors. The Gli gene family (Gli1, Gli2, and Gli3) encodes zinc finger transcription factors that act as mediators of hedgehog signal transduction. In this study, we investigate the role of Gli2 in mammary gland development. Mammary expression of Gli2 is developmentally regulated in a tissue compartment-specific manner. Expression is exclusively stromal during virgin stages of development but becomes both epithelial and stromal during pregnancy and lactation. The null phenotype with respect to both ductal and alveolar development was examined by transplantation rescue of embryonic mammary glands into physiologically normal host females. Glands derived from both wild type and null embryo donors showed ductal outgrowths that developed to equivalent extents in virgin hosts. However, in null transplants, ducts were frequently distended or irregularly shaped and showed a range of histological alterations similar to micropapillary ductal hyperplasias in the human breast. Alveolar development during pregnancy was not overtly affected by loss of Gli2 function. Ductal defects were not observed when homozygous null epithelium was transplanted into a wild type stromal background, indicating that Gli2 function is required primarily in the stroma for proper ductal development. ΔGli2 heterozygotes also demonstrated an elevated frequency and severity of focal ductal dysplasia relative to that of wild type littermate- and age-matched control animals.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In vertebrates, the hedgehog family of cell signaling proteins and associated downstream network components play an essential role in mediating tissue interactions during development and organogenesis. Loss-of-function or misexpression mutation of hedgehog network components can cause birth defects, skin cancer and other tumors. The mammary gland is a specialized skin derivative requiring epithelial-epithelial and epithelial-stromal tissue interactions similar to those required for development of other organs, where these interactions are often controlled by hedgehog signaling. We have investigated the role of the Patched-1 (Ptc1) hedgehog receptor gene in mammary development and neoplasia. Haploinsufficiency at the Ptc1 locus results in severe histological defects in ductal structure, and minor morphological changes in terminal end buds in heterozygous postpubescent virgin animals. Defects are mainly ductal hyperplasias and dysplasias characterized by multilayered ductal walls and dissociated cells impacting ductal lumens. This phenotype is 100% penetrant. Remarkably, defects are reverted during late pregnancy and lactation but return upon involution and gland remodeling. Whole mammary gland transplants into athymic mice demonstrates that the observed dysplasias reflect an intrisic developmental defect within the gland. However, Ptc1-induced epithelial dysplasias are not stable upon transplantation into a wild-type epithelium-free fat pad, suggesting stromal (or epithelial and stromal) function of Ptc1. Mammary expression of Ptc1 mRNA is both epithelial and stromal and is developmentally regulated. Phenotypic reversion correlates with developmentally regulated and enhanced expression of Indian hedgehog (Ihh) during pregnancy and lactation. Data demonstrate a critical mammary role for at least one component of the hedgehog signaling network and suggest that Ihh is the primary hedgehog gene active in the gland.
Development 12/1999; 126(22):5181-93. · 6.21 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the mouse mammary gland, homeobox gene expression patterns suggest roles in development and neoplasia. In the human breast, we now identify a family of Iroquois-class (IRX) homeobox genes. One gene, IRX-2, is expressed in discrete epithelial cell lineages being found in ductal and lobular epithelium, but not in myoepithelium. Expression is absent from associated mesenchymal adipose stroma. During gland development, expression is concentrated in terminal end buds and terminal lobules and is reduced in a subset of epithelial cells during lactation. In contrast to observations for many homeobox genes in the mouse mammary gland in which homeobox gene expression is lost on neoplastic progression, IRX-2 expression is maintained in human mammary neoplasias. Data suggest IRX-2 functions in epithelial cell differentiation and demonstrate regulated expression during ductal and lobular proliferation as well as lactation.
Cell and Tissue Research 04/1999; 296(3):549-554. · 3.68 Impact Factor