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Breast Cancer Res. 2005;7(5):190-7. Epub 2005 Jul 12.

Myoepithelial cells: good fences make good neighbors.

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  • 1Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA.


The mammary gland consists of an extensively branched ductal network contained within a distinctive basement membrane and encompassed by a stromal compartment. During lactation, production of milk depends on the action of the two epithelial cell types that make up the ductal network: luminal cells, which secrete the milk components into the ductal lumen; and myoepithelial cells, which contract to aid in the ejection of milk. There is increasing evidence that the myoepithelial cells also play a key role in the organizational development of the mammary gland, and that the loss and/or change of myoepithelial cell function is a key step in the development of breast cancer. In this review we briefly address the characteristics of breast myoepithelial cells from human breast and mouse mammary gland, how they function in normal mammary gland development, and their recently appreciated role in tumor suppression.

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