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Dev Biol. 1999 Jul 15;211(2):238-54.

Timp-1 is important for epithelial proliferation and branching morphogenesis during mouse mammary development.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2M9, Canada.


The dynamic process of mammary ductal morphogenesis depends on regulated epithelial proliferation and extracellular matrix (ECM) turnover. Epithelial cell-matrix contact closely dictates epithelial proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Despite the fact that tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (Timps) regulate ECM turnover, their function in mammary morphogenesis is unknown. We have delineated the spatiotemporal expression of all Timps (Timp-1 to Timp-4) during discrete phases of murine mammary development. Timp mRNAs were abundant in mammary tissue, each displaying differential expression patterns with predominant localization in luminal epithelial cells. Timp-1 mRNA was unique in that its expression was limited to the stage at which epithelial proliferation was high. To assess whether Timp-1 promotes or inhibits epithelial cell proliferation we manipulated mammary Timp-1 levels, genetically and biochemically. Down-regulation of epithelial-derived Timp-1 in transgenic mice, by mouse mammary tumor virus promoter-directed Timp-1 antisense RNA expression, led to augmented ductal expansion and increased number of ducts (P < 0.004). In these transgenics the integrity of basement membrane surrounding epithelial ducts, as visualized by laminin-specific immunostaining, was breached. In contrast to these mice, ductal expansion was markedly attenuated in the proximity of implanted recombinant Timp-1-releasing pellets (rTIMP-1), without an increase in basement membrane deposition around migrating terminal end buds. Epithelial proliferation and apoptosis were measured to determine the basis of altered ductal expansion. Luminal epithelial proliferation was increased by 55% (P < 0.02) in Timp-1-reduced transgenic mammary tissue and, conversely, decreased by 38% (P < 0.02) in terminal end buds by implanted rTIMP-1. Epithelial apoptosis was minimal and remained unaffected by Timp-1 manipulations. We conclude that Timps have an integral function in mammary morphogenesis and that Timp-1 regulates mammary epithelial proliferation in vivo, at least in part by maintaining basement membrane integrity.

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