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Cancer Res. 1995 Sep 1;55(17):3915-27.

Inhibition of mammary gland involution is associated with transforming growth factor alpha but not c-myc-induced tumorigenesis in transgenic mice.

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  • 1Laboratory of Reproductive Physiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Deregulated expression of transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) or c-myc has been implicated in the genesis of human breast cancer. To better characterize the role of these molecules in this disease, we generated transgenic mice that express TGF-alpha or c-myc under control of the mouse whey acidic protein (WAP) promoter. We then compared the resulting mammary gland neoplasia in these mice and in previously described mice expressing a metallothionein-driven TGF-alpha transgene. Nonvirgin female mice in all transgenic lineages developed mammary tumors with 100% incidence but variable latency. Among TGF-alpha lines, mean survival time correlated with the level of transgene expression, and the average life spans of high-expressing WAP-TGF-alpha and WAP-c-myc mice were similarly reduced. The majority of TGF-alpha-induced tumors were relatively well-differentiated adenomas and adenocarcinomas; in contrast, WAP-c-myc tumors were poorly differentiated, solid carcinomas with a minority of adenocarcinomas. Most TGF-alpha and all c-myc-induced tumors were transplantable, but lung metastases were infrequently observed in all transgenic lines. WAP-TGF-alpha-induced tumors, in marked contrast to those induced by WAP-c-myc, displayed frequent induction of cyclin D1 mRNA, suggesting that expression of this gene may complement that of TGF-alpha during mammary tumor development. Expression of TGF-alpha also induced precocious development of pregnant glands and delayed or inhibited mammary involution. As a result, multiparious MT-TGF-alpha and especially WAP-TGF-alpha females accumulated large numbers of hyperplastic alveolar nodules that resembled the more differentiated TGF-alpha-induced tumors. Finally, coexpression of WAP-c-myc and WAP-TGF-alpha transgenes markedly decreased tumor latency, increased tumor growth, and even induced mammary tumors in virgin female and male mice. These findings provide further evidence for the importance of deregulated TGF-alpha expression in multistage carcinogenesis, and they suggest that in the mammary gland the mechanism of TGF-alpha-induced transformation may depend on postlactational survival of differentiated epithelium. They also provide evidence of a potent tumorigenic collaboration between TGF-alpha and c-myc in mammary epithelium.

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