Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2013 Jun;18(2):105-20. doi: 10.1007/s10911-013-9290-8. Epub 2013 May 17.

Evo-devo of the mammary gland.

Author information

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA.


We propose a new scenario for mammary evolution based on comparative review of early mammary development among mammals. Mammary development proceeds through homologous phases across taxa, but evolutionary modifications in early development produce different final morphologies. In monotremes, the mammary placode spreads out to form a plate-like mammary bulb from which more than 100 primary sprouts descend into mesenchyme. At their distal ends, secondary sprouts develop, including pilosebaceous anlagen, resulting in a mature structure in which mammary lobules and sebaceous glands empty into the infundibula of hair follicles; these structural triads (mammolobular-pilo-sebaceous units or MPSUs) represent an ancestral condition. In marsupials a flask-like mammary bulb elongates as a sprout, but then hollows out; its secondary sprouts include hair and sebaceous anlagen (MPSUs), but the hairs are shed during nipple formation. In some eutherians (cat, horse, human) MPSUs form at the distal ends of primary sprouts; pilosebaceous components either regress or develop into mature structures. We propose that a preexisting structural triad (the apocrine-pilo-sebaceous unit) was incorporated into the evolving mammary structure, and coupled to additional developmental processes that form the mammary line, placode, bulb and primary sprout. In this scenario only mammary ductal trees and secretory tissue derive from ancestral apocrine-like glands. The mammary gland appears to have coopted signaling pathways and genes for secretory products from even earlier integumentary structures, such as odontode (tooth-like) or odontode-derived structures. We speculate that modifications in signal use (such as PTHrP and BMP4) may contribute to taxonomic differences in MPSU development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Springer
    Loading ...
    Support Center