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Development. 1996 Jan;122(1):181-93.

Two distinct phases of apoptosis in mammary gland involution: proteinase-independent and -dependent pathways.

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  • 1Laboratory of Radiobiology and Environmental Health, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0750, USA.

Abstract

Postlactational involution of the mammary gland is characterized by two distinct physiological events: apoptosis of the secretory, epithelial cells undergoing programmed cell death, and proteolytic degradation of the mammary gland basement membrane. We examined the spatial and temporal patterns of apoptotic cells in relation to those of proteinases during involution of the BALB/c mouse mammary gland. Apoptosis was almost absent during lactation but became evident at day 2 of involution, when beta-casein gene expression was still high. Apoptotic cells were then seen at least up to day 8 of involution, when beta-casein gene expression was being extinguished. Expression of sulfated glycoprotein-2 (SGP-2), interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme (ICE) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 was upregulated at day 2, when apoptotic cells were seen initially. Expression of the matrix metalloproteinases gelatinase A and stromelysin-1 and the serine proteinase urokinase-type plasminogen activator, which was low during lactation, was strongly upregulated in parallel starting at day 4 after weaning, coinciding with start of the collapse of the lobulo-alveolar structures and the intensive tissue remodeling in involution. The major sites of mRNA synthesis for these proteinases were fibroblast-like cells in the periductal stroma and stromal cells surrounding the collapsed alveoli, suggesting that the degradative phase of involution is due to a specialized mesenchymal-epithelial interaction. To elucidate the functional role of these proteinases during involution, at the onset of weaning we treated mice systemically with the glucocorticoid hydrocortisone, which is known to inhibit mammary gland involution. Although the initial wave of apoptotic cells appeared in the lumina of the gland, the dramatic regression and tissue remodeling usually evident by day 5 was substantially inhibited by systemic treatment with hydrocortisone. mRNA and protein for gelatinase A, stromelysin-1 and uPA were weakly induced, if at all, in hydrocortisone-treated mice. Furthermore, mRNA for membrane-type matrix metalloproteinase decreased after hydrocortisone treatment and paralleled the almost complete inhibition of activation of latent gelatinase A. Concomitantly, the gland filled with an overabundance of milk. Our data support the hypothesis that there are at least two distinct phases of involution: an initial phase, characterized by induction of the apoptosis-associated genes SGP-2 and ICE and apoptosis of fully differentiated mammary epithelial cells without visible degradation of the extracellular matrix, and a second phase, characterized by extracellular matrix remodeling and altered mesenchymal-epithelial interactions, followed by apoptosis of cells that are losing differentiated functions.

PMID:
8565829
PMCID:
PMC2933211
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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