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Am J Anat. 1984 Aug;170(4):631-52.

Cellular composition and organization of ductal buds in developing rat mammary glands: evidence for morphological intermediates between epithelial and myoepithelial cells.


In the developing rat mammary gland, terminal end buds (TEBs), lateral buds and alveolar buds represent the major sites of morphogenetic activity and cellular differentiation. The morphology and cellular composition of these buds from 20-to 22-day-old rats and cycling rats have been studied by immunocytochemical and electron microscopic techniques. The mammary buds are composed of a heterogeneous collection of cells including epithelial and myoepithelial cells, irregular loosely adherent cells, and occasional large clear cells. The irregular, loosely packed cells or cap cells are mainly situated around the periphery of the TEBs and lateral buds. "Chains" of irregularly shaped cells also extend from the peripheral cap cell layer to the center of the TEB; and, where they converge on lumina, they display microvilli and junctional complexes. At the tips of the end buds, the cap cells are of undifferentiated appearance; however, similar cells situated toward the subtending mammary ducts show a gradation in ultrastructure to that of myoepithelial cells. This change is accompanied by an increase in the amounts of immunoreactive myosin and keratin seen within the cells and a 200-fold increase in the thickness of the basement membrane. In contrast, the peripheral cells of the alveolar buds are more closely packed, contain a greater number of myofilaments, and show increased staining with antisera to myosin. We suggest that the undifferentiated cap cells do not represent a discrete cell type, since they show transitional forms to myoepithelial cells within the subtending mammary ducts, and that the tendency toward the myoepithelial phenotype is predominant in the more differentiated structures, the alveolar buds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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