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J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2005 Jul;10(3):261-72.

Myoepithelial cells: their origin and function in breast morphogenesis and neoplasia.

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland. thorarinn@krabb.is


The human breast epithelium is a branching ductal system composed of an inner layer of polarized luminal epithelial cells and an outer layer of myoepithelial cells that terminate in distally located terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs). While the luminal epithelial cell has received the most attention as the functionally active milk-producing cell and as the most likely target cell for carcinogenesis, attention on myoepithelial cells has begun to evolve with the recognition that these cells play an active part in branching morphogenesis and tumor suppression. A major question that has been the subject of investigation pertains to how the luminal epithelial and myoepithelial lineages are related and precisely how they arise from a common putative stem cell population within the breast. Equally important is the question of how heterotypic signaling occurs between luminal epithelial and surrounding myoepithelial cells in normal breast morphogenesis and neoplasia. In this review we discuss data from our laboratories and from others regarding the cellular origin of human myoepithelial cells, their function in maintaining tissue polarity in the normal breast, and their role during neoplasia.

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