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Histopathology. 2007 Dec;51(6):814-23.

Immunohistochemical expression patterns of AP2alpha and AP2gamma in the developing fetal human breast.

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Institute of Pathology, University of Bonn Medical School, Bonn, Germany.



AP2alpha (TFAP2A) and AP2gamma (TFAP2G) transcription factors have been implicated in the control of proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis of normal breast epithelium and in breast cancer. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive analysis of the expression patterns of TFAP2A and TFAP2G in the developing fetal breast anlage with other relevant markers.


Sixty fetal and one infant human breast specimens from 14 weeks of gestational age to 5 months old were examined. The primary breast outgrowth/nipple showed TFAP2A expression by the basal cells (week 14), followed later by cytokeratin (CK) 5 co-expression (week 17). Sprouting of the secondary outgrowths was characterized by HER-2+ invading cells. Preliminary ductal buds were lined by TFAP2G/HER-1-expressing myoepithelial precursors (week 19). Maturation of TFAP2A/CK18+ epithelia and TFAP2G/smooth muscle actin-positive myoepithelia proceeded in a distal-to-proximal manner beginning in the terminal end buds (week 22). CK5+ progenitor cells and CK5/TFAP2A or CK5/TFAP2G co-expressing intermediary glandular or myoepithelial cells were found in the terminal end buds of neonatal fetal breast tissue.


AP2 transcription factors may play decisive pacemaker roles in initiating and coordinating budding and branching processes during formation of the fetal breast anlage, possibly via modulation of an epidermal growth factor receptor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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