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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2010 May;3(5):620-9. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0225. Epub 2010 Apr 27.

Social isolation reduces mammary development, tumor incidence, and expression of epigenetic regulators in wild-type and p53-heterozygotic mice.

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  • 1Center for Women's Health Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Chronic stress is associated with more rapid tumor progression, and recent evidence suggests that stress may contribute to social and ethnic disparities in the incidence and mortality of breast cancer. We evaluated the p53(+/-) FVB/N mouse as a model to investigate effects of chronic social stress on mammary gland development, gene expression, and tumorigenesis. We individually housed (IH) wild-type and p53(+/-) female FVB/N mice, starting at weaning. At 14 weeks of age, both wild-type and p53(+/-) IH mice showed strikingly reduced mammary development compared with group-housed (GH) controls, with IH mice having significantly fewer preterminal end buds. This morphologic difference was not reflected in levels of mammary transcripts for estrogen receptor-alpha or progestin receptor. However, IH increased levels of mRNA for the kisspeptin receptor in the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus, associated with reduced duration of estrous cycles. Furthermore, IH altered mammary transcripts of genes associated with DNA methylation; transcripts for methyl-binding protein 2 and DNA methyltransferase 3b (DNMT3b), but not DNMT1 and DNMT3a, were reduced in IH compared with GH females. Interestingly, the glands of p53(+/-) females showed reduced expression of all these mediators compared with wild-type females. However, contrary to our initial hypothesis, IH did not increase mammary tumorigenesis. Rather, p53(+/-) GH females developed significantly more mammary tumors than IH mice. Together, these data suggest that social isolation initiated at puberty might confound studies of tumorigenesis by altering mammary development in mouse models.

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