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Cell Growth Differ. 1990 Apr;1(4):161-70.

Differential keratin gene expression in developing, differentiating, preneoplastic, and neoplastic mouse mammary epithelium.

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Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Two keratins whose expression has been associated with proliferation (K14) and hyperproliferation (K6) in mouse epithelia were detected in normal, preneoplastic, and neoplastic mouse mammary tissues. K6 and K14 keratins were independently expressed in distinct epithelial cell populations in developing mammary anlage. K6 was confined to a small number of mammary epithelial cells associated with the growing end buds and among the proximal luminal epithelium, whereas K14 expression appeared in basally located fusiform cells that correspond to the location of mammary myoepithelial cells. This pattern was maintained in mature glands and through full functional differentiation with the exception that K6-positive cells were only rarely detectable. During lobuloalveolar growth in early pregnancy, K6 and K6/K14 coexpressing cells were observed among the luminal and suprabasal cells in the expanding lobular epithelium. This K6/K14 coexpressing epithelial subset persisted throughout pregnancy, lactation, and involution, albeit in much smaller numbers than observed in early pregnancy. Two patterns of K6 and K14 expression in preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions of mouse mammary glands were induced by various carcinogenic stimuli. In one, increased numbers of K6- or K14-positive cells were present in distinct cellular populations; in the other, coexpression of K6/K14 was found in a large subpopulation of both preneoplastic and neoplastic mammary epithelium. These observations suggest that expression of K6 and K14 keratins in the mouse mammary gland is associated with growth and expansion of specific mammary epithelial cell populations, and as such these keratins may be useful probes with which to identify mammary epithelium-specific primordial cells. In agreement with this possibility, K6/K14 expression was demonstrated within a distinct subset of morphologically distinct luminal mammary epithelial cells that have been reported to possess kinetic properties in vitro consistent with those expected of latent mammogenic stem cells.

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