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Dev Biol. 1998 Nov 1;203(1):75-89.

Stromal cells are critical targets in the regulation of mammary ductal morphogenesis by parathyroid hormone-related protein.

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Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, 06520, USA.


Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) was originally identified as the tumor product responsible for humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy. It is now known that PTHrP is produced by many normal tissues in which it appears to play a role as a developmental regulatory molecule. PTHrP is a normal product of mammary epithelial cells, and recent experiments in our laboratory have demonstrated that overexpression or underexpression of PTHrP in the murine mammary gland leads to severe disruptions in its development. The nature of these phenotypes suggests that PTHrP acts to modulate branching growth during mammary development by regulating mammary stromal cell function. We now demonstrate that throughout mammary development, during periods of active ductal-branching morphogenesis, PTHrP is produced by epithelial cells, whereas the PTH/PTHrP receptor is expressed on stromal cells. In addition, we show that mammary stromal cells in culture contain specific binding sites for amino terminal PTHrP and respond with an increase in intracellular cAMP. Finally, we demonstrate that the mammary mesenchyme must express the PTH/PTHrP receptor in order to support mammary epithelial cell morphogenesis. These results demonstrate that PTHrP and the PTH/PTHrP receptor represent an epithelial/mesenchymal signaling circuit that is necessary for mammary morphogenesis and that stromal cells are a critical target for PTHrP's action in the mammary gland.

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