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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Feb 1;90(3):999-1003.

Expression of smooth muscle-specific proteins in myoepithelium and stromal myofibroblasts of normal and malignant human breast tissue.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Physiopathologie du Developpement, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Unité Associée 1337, Paris, France.


The expression of several differentiation markers in normal human mammary gland myoepithelium and in certain stromal fibroblasts ("myofibroblasts") associated with breast carcinomas was studied by immunofluorescence microscopy of frozen sections. Several antibodies to smooth muscle-specific proteins (smooth muscle alpha-actin, smooth muscle myosin heavy chains, calponin, alpha 1-integrin, and high molecular weight caldesmon) and to epithelial-specific proteins (cytokeratins, E-cadherin, and desmoplakin) were used to show that myoepithelial cells concomitantly express epithelial and smooth muscle markers whereas adjacent luminal cells express only epithelial markers. The same antibodies were used to establish that stromal myofibroblasts exhibit smooth muscle phenotypic properties characterized by the expression of all the smooth muscle markers examined except for high molecular weight caldesmon. In addition, both myoepithelium and myofibroblasts show a significant degree of heterogeneity in smooth muscle protein expression. Thus, myoepithelial cells and stromal myofibroblasts are epithelial and mesenchymal cells, respectively, which coordinately express a set of smooth muscle markers while maintaining their specific original features. The dual nature of myoepithelial cells and the phenotypic transition of fibroblasts to myofibroblasts are examples of the plasticity of the differentiated cell phenotype.

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