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J Cell Physiol. 1998 Feb;174(2):251-60.

Role of epidermal growth factor in the acquisition of ovarian steroid hormone responsiveness in the normal mouse mammary gland.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


The purpose of the present studies was to investigate the role of epidermal growth factor (EGF) in the acquisition of estrogen (E) and progestin (P) responsiveness in the mouse mammary gland in vivo. Using the Elvax 40P implant technique to introduce bioactive molecules directly into the mammary gland to produce a localized effect, we have made the novel observation that EGF implanted into glands of pubertal mice followed by E treatment resulted in the precocious acquisition of E-inducible progesterone receptors (PR). In sexually mature mice, EGF implants alone were able to increase PR. A neutralizing antibody specific for EGF blocked E-dependent stimulation of end-bud development and PR induction. Furthermore, the antiestrogen ICI 182,780 blocked the EGF-induced stimulation end-buds and PR induction, indicating that these EGF effects are mediated via estrogen receptors (ER). Immunohistochemical analysis showed that the endogenous EGF content of mammary glands of mature mice was higher than pubertal mice, that E implants caused a localized increase in mammary gland EGF content in both pubertal and mature mice, and that in mature mice E caused an increase in stromal cell EGF content. We have previously shown that the acquisition of E-inducible PR can be modulated by mammary stroma, and the present results indicate that mammary stroma could modulate hormonal responsiveness through control of local growth factor concentration. Taken together, these results provide evidence that E-dependent responses of mouse mammary gland in vivo, such as end-bud proliferation and PR regulation, may be mediated by EGF through an ER-dependent mechanism.

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