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Dev Dyn. 2001 Oct;222(2):192-205.

Transcriptional and spatiotemporal regulation of prolactin receptor mRNA and cooperativity with progesterone receptor function during ductal branch growth in the mammary gland.

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Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Section, Center for Cancer Research, NCI, NIH, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892-1402, USA.


Ductal branching within the mammary gland is stimulated by prolactin (PRL) and progesterone (P) acting through their receptors (PRLR and PR). Analysis of mammary gland PRLR expression revealed increasing expression of the long form (L-PRLR) and two of the three short forms (S1- and S3-PRLR) during puberty that became maximal late in pubescence and early gestation, then declined during gestation. By contrast, S2-PRLR mRNA levels remained constant. Examination of stromal PRLR revealed the consistent expression of L-PRLR mRNA. By contrast, S1-PRLR was present only in the mammary fat pad of neonates, whereas high neonatal expression of S2-PRLR became undetectable during puberty. Stromal expression of S3-PRLR decreased to low levels during puberty and was undetectable during lactation and involution. Exogenous PRL stimulated DNA synthesis in both epithelial and adjacent stromal cells in vivo. Distribution of PRLR mRNA in mammary epithelium was homogeneous before puberty and heterogeneous during puberty, gestation, and early lactation. A mutual role for PRLR and PR was suggested wherein PR mRNA increased beyond 6 weeks to maximal levels during puberty and gestation then became undetectable during lactation. In situ hybridization revealed that PR mRNA distribution is homogeneous in the ductal epithelium before 6 weeks and heterogenous during puberty and gestation and that PRLR and PR are similarly distributed in the ductal epithelium. Neither hormone stimulated DNA synthesis in mammary glands of ovariectomized females while their effects interacted markedly. These results demonstrate differential PRLR transcription by epithelial and stromal cells and a similar distribution of PRLR and PR that may facilitate the interaction between P and PRL during ductal branching in the mammary gland.

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