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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 15;102(46):16886-91. Epub 2005 Nov 7.

Impaired involution of mammary glands in the absence of milk fat globule EGF factor 8.

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Department of Genetics, Osaka University Medical School, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan.


During the involution of mammary glands, epithelial cells undergo apoptosis and are cleared for the next cycle of lactation. The clearance of apoptotic epithelial cells is mediated by neighboring epithelial cells and by macrophages that migrate into the mammary glands. Here, we report that milk fat globule EGF factor 8 (MFG-E8), a secreted glycoprotein that binds to apoptotic cells by recognizing phosphatidylserine, was expressed by epithelial cells and macrophages in mammary glands and was involved in engulfment of apoptotic cells. A deficiency of MFG-E8 caused the accumulation of a large number of milk fat globules (MFGs) in the mammary ducts during involution, indicating that the excess MFGs were cleared by an MFG-E8-dependent mechanism. The MFG-E8(-/-) mice developed mammary duct ectasia with periductal mastitis, and the redevelopment of the mammary gland for their second litter was impaired. These results demonstrate that MFG-E8-mediated phagocytosis of apoptotic epithelial cells and MFGs is important for efficient involution of mammary glands.

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