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Dev Biol. 1996 Jul 10;177(1):347-55.

Regulated expression of homeobox genes Msx-1 and Msx-2 in mouse mammary gland development suggests a role in hormone action and epithelial-stromal interactions.

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Department of Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, 95064, USA.


The murine homeobox genes Msx-1 and Msx-2 are related to the Drosophila msh gene and are expressed in a variety of tissues during mouse embryogenesis. We now report the developmentally regulated expression of Msx-1 and Msx-2 in the mouse mammary gland and show that their expression patterns point toward significant functional roles. Msx-1 and Msx-2 transcripts were present in glands of virgin mice and in glands of mice in early pregnancy, but transcripts decreased dramatically during late pregnancy. Low levels of Msx-1 transcripts were detected in glands from lactating animals and during the first days of involution, whereas Msx-2 expression was not detected during lactation or early involution. Expression of both genes increased gradually as involution progressed. Msx-2 but not Msx-1 expression was decreased following ovariectomy or following exposure to anti-estrogen implanted directly into the gland. Hormonal regulation of Msx-2 expression was confirmed when transcripts returned to normal levels after estrogen was administered to ovariectomized animals. In situ molecular hybridization for Msx-1 showed transcripts localized to the mammary epithelium, whereas Msx-2 expression was confined to the periductal stroma. Mammary stroma from which mammary epithelium had been removed did not transcribe detectable amounts of Msx-2, showing that expression is regulated by contiguous mammary epithelium, and indicating a role for these homeobox genes in mesenchymal-epithelial interactions during mammary development.

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