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Cell. 2000 Sep 29;103(1):41-50.

The osteoclast differentiation factor osteoprotegerin-ligand is essential for mammary gland development.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, Ontario Cancer Institute, University of Toronto, Canada.


Osteoprotegerin-ligand (OPGL) is a key osteoclast differentiation/activation factor essential for bone remodeling. We report that mice lacking OPGL or its receptor RANK fail to form lobulo-alveolar mammary structures during pregnancy, resulting in death of newborns. Transplantation and OPGL-rescue experiments in opgl-/- and rank-/- pregnant females showed that OPGL acts directly on RANK-expressing mammary epithelial cells. The effects of OPGL are autonomous to epithelial cells. The mammary gland defect in female opgl-/- mice is characterized by enhanced apoptosis and failures in proliferation and PKB activation in lobulo-alveolar buds that can be reversed by recombinant OPGL treatment. These data provide a novel paradigm in mammary gland development and an evolutionary rationale for hormonal regulation and gender bias of osteoporosis in females.

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