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Dev Biol. 2013 Jul 15;379(2):235-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.04.029. Epub 2013 May 7.

PI3K regulates branch initiation and extension of cultured mammary epithelia via Akt and Rac1 respectively.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


The tree-like architecture of the mammary gland is generated by branching morphogenesis, which is regulated by many signals from the microenvironment. Here we examined how signaling downstream of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) regulates different steps of mammary branching using three-dimensional culture models of the mammary epithelial duct. We found that PI3K was required for both branch initiation and elongation. Activated Akt was enhanced at branch initiation sites where its negative regulator, PTEN, was blocked by signaling via Sprouty2 (SPRY2); inhibiting Akt prevented branch initiation. The pattern of SPRY2 expression, and thus of Akt activation and branch initiation, was controlled by mechanical signaling from endogenous cytoskeletal contractility. In contrast, activated GTP-bound Rac1 localized to the leading edge of nascent branches and was required for branch elongation. These data suggest that the PI3K network integrates mechanical and biochemical signaling to control branching morphogenesis of mammary epithelial cells.

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