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Concept: Mammary gland


Monotremes are the only oviparous mammals and exhibit a fascinating combination of reptilian and mammalian characters. They represent a component of synapsidal reproduction by laying shelled eggs which are incubated outside the mother’s body. This is accompanied by a prototherian lactation process, marking them as representatives of early mammals. The only extant monotremes are the platypus, and the short- and long- beaked echidnas, and their distributions are limited to Australia and New Guinea. Apart for a short weaning period, milk is the sole source of nutrition and protection for the hatchlings which are altricial and immunologically naive. The duration of lactation in these mammals is prolonged relative to the gestational length and period of incubation of eggs. Much of the development of monotreme young occurs in the non-sterile ex-utero environment. Therefore the role of milk in the growth, development and disease protection of the young is of significant interest. By sequencing the cDNA of cells harvested from monotreme milk, we have identified a novel monotreme- specific transcript, and the corresponding gene was designated as the EchAMP. The expression profile of this gene in various tissues revealed that it is highly expressed in milk cells. The peptides corresponding to the EchAMP protein have been identified in a sample of echidna milk In silico analysis indicated putative antimicrobial potential for the cognate protein of EchAMP. This was further confirmed by in vitro assays using a host of bacteria. Interestingly, EchAMP did not display any activity against a commensal gut floral species. These results support the hypothesis of enhancement of survival of the young by antimicrobial bioactives of mammary gland origin and thus emphasize the protective, non- nutritional role of milk in mammals.

Concepts: Gene expression, Milk, Lactation, Mammal, Mammary gland, Monotreme, Platypus, Echidna


BACKGROUND: Autophagy is a self-catabolic mechanism that degrades unnecessary cellular components through lysosomal enzymes. Beclin-1, an autophagy-related protein, establishes the first connection between autophagy and tumorigenesis. The purpose of this study is to assess the Beclin-1 expression pattern and to determine its prognostic significance in patients with malignant canine mammary tumor (CMT).

Concepts: Cell, Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Mammary gland, Mammary tumor, Mammary tumors


The diagnosis of breast lesions is usually confirmed by fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) or histological biopsy. Although there is increasing literature regarding the advantages and limitations of both modalities, there is no literature regarding the accuracy of these modalities for diagnosing breast lesions in high-risk patients, who usually have lesions detected by screening. Moreover, few studies have been published regarding the cytopathology of mammary tumors in cats despite widespread use of the animal model for breast cancer formation and inhibition. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the diagnostic interest of cytological and histopathological analysis in feline mammary tumours (FMTs), in order to evaluate its possible value as an animal model.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Pathology, Anatomical pathology, Breast, Needle aspiration biopsy, Mammary gland, Mammary tumor


An important feature of the mammary gland is its ability to undergo repeated morphological changes during each reproductive cycle with profound tissue expansion in pregnancy and regression in involution. However, the mechanisms that determine the tissue’s cyclic regenerative capacity remain elusive. We have now discovered that Cre-Lox ablation of Rac1 in mammary epithelia causes gross enlargement of the epithelial tree and defective alveolar regeneration in a second pregnancy. Architectural defects arise because loss of Rac1 disrupts clearance in involution following the first lactation. We show that Rac1 is crucial for mammary alveolar epithelia to switch from secretion to a phagocytic mode and rapidly remove dying neighbors. Moreover, Rac1 restricts the extrusion of dying cells into the lumen, thus promoting their eradication by live phagocytic neighbors while within the epithelium. Without Rac1, residual milk and cell corpses flood the ductal network, causing gross dilation, chronic inflammation, and defective future regeneration.

Concepts: Prolactin, Secretion, Epithelium, Milk, Skin, Progesterone, Gland, Mammary gland


While many studies have shown that maternal weight and nutrition in pregnancy affects offspring’s breast cancer risk, no studies have investigated the impact of paternal body weight on daughters' risk of this disease. Here, we show that diet-induced paternal overweight around the time of conception can epigenetically reprogram father’s germ-line and modulate their daughters' birth weight and likelihood of developing breast cancer, using a mouse model. Increased body weight was associated with changes in the miRNA expression profile in paternal sperm. Daughters of overweight fathers had higher rates of carcinogen-induced mammary tumors which were associated with delayed mammary gland development and alterations in mammary miRNA expression. The hypoxia signaling pathway, targeted by miRNAs down-regulated in daughters of overweight fathers, was activated in their mammary tissues and tumors. This study provides evidence that paternal peri-conceptional body weight may affect daughters' mammary development and breast cancer risk and warrants further studies in other animal models and humans.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Prolactin, Obesity, Breast, Mammary gland, Mammary tumor, Paternal bond


Many common environmental chemicals are mammary gland carcinogens in animal studies, activate relevant hormonal pathways, or enhance mammary gland susceptibility to carcinogenesis. Breast cancer’s long latency and multifactorial etiology make evaluation of these chemicals in humans challenging.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Organ, Mammal, Breast, Exocrine gland, Mammary gland, Mammary tumor


In recent years, a greater appreciation for the microbes inhabiting human body sites has emerged. In the female mammary gland, milk has been shown to contain bacterial species, ostensibly from the skin. We decided to investigate whether there is a microbiome within the mammary tissue. Using 16S rRNA sequencing and culture, we analysed breast tissue from 81 women with and without cancer in Canada and Ireland. A diverse population of bacteria were detected within tissue collected from sites all around the breast in women aged 18 to 90, not all of whom had a history of lactating. The principal phylum was Proteobacteria. The most abundant taxa in the Canadian samples were Bacillus (11.4%), Acinetobacter (10.0%), unclassified Enterobacteriaceae (8.3%), Pseudomonas (6.5%), Staphylococcus (6.5%), Propionibacterium (5.8%), unclassified Comamonadaceae (5.7%), unclassified Gammaproteobacteria (5.0%) and Prevotella (5.0%). In the Irish samples the most abundant taxa were unclassified Enterobacteriaceae (30.8%), Staphylococcus (12.7%), Listeria welshimeri (12.1%), Propionibacterium (10.1%) and Pseudomonas (5.3%). None of the subjects had signs or symptoms of infection, but the presence of viable bacteria was confirmed in some samples by culture. The extent to which these organisms play a role in health or disease remains to be determined.

Concepts: Bacteria, Prolactin, Milk, Lactation, Breast, Mammary gland


The mammary gland represents a unique tissue to study organogenesis as it predominantly develops in the post-natal animal and undergoes dramatic morphogenetic changes during puberty and the reproductive cycle. The physiological function of the mammary gland is to produce milk to sustain the newborn. Here we view the lactating gland through three-dimensional confocal imaging of intact tissue. We observed that the majority of secretory alveolar cells are binucleated. These cells first arise in very late pregnancy due to failure of cytokinesis and are larger than mononucleated cells. Augmented expression of Aurora kinase-A and Polo-like kinase-1 at the lactogenic switch likely mediates the formation of binucleated cells. Our findings demonstrate an important physiological role for polyploid mammary epithelial cells in lactation, and based on their presence in five different species, suggest that binucleated cells evolved to maximize milk production and promote the survival of offspring across all mammalian species.

Concepts: Biology, Prolactin, Milk, Lactation, Mammal, Breast, Mammary gland


Folic acid supplementation may prevent the development of cancer in normal tissues but may promote the progression of established (pre)neoplastic lesions. However, whether or not folic acid supplementation can promote the progression of established (pre)neoplastic mammary lesions is unknown. This is a critically important issue because breast cancer patients and survivors in North America are likely exposed to high levels of folic acid owing to folic acid fortification and widespread supplemental use after cancer diagnosis. We investigated whether folic acid supplementation can promote the progression of established mammary tumors. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were placed on a control diet and mammary tumors were initiated with 7,12-dimethylbenza[a]anthracene at puberty. When the sentinel tumor reached a predefined size, rats were randomized to receive a diet containing the control, 2.5x, 4x, or 5x supplemental levels of folic acid for up to 12 weeks. The sentinel mammary tumor growth was monitored weekly. At necropsy, the sentinel and all other mammary tumors were analyzed histologically. The effect of folic acid supplementation on the expression of proteins involved in proliferation, apoptosis, and mammary tumorigenesis was determined in representative sentinel adenocarcinomas. Although no clear dose-response relationship was observed, folic acid supplementation significantly promoted the progression of the sentinel mammary tumors and was associated with significantly higher sentinel mammary tumor weight and volume compared with the control diet. Furthermore, folic acid supplementation was associated with significantly higher weight and volume of all mammary tumors. The most significant and consistent mammary tumor-promoting effect was observed with the 2.5x supplemental level of folic acid. Folic acid supplementation was also associated with an increased expression of BAX, PARP, and HER2. Our data suggest that folic acid supplementation may promote the progression of established mammary tumors. The potential tumor-promoting effect of folic acid supplementation in breast cancer patients and survivors needs further clarification.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Anatomical pathology, Breast, Folic acid, Mammary gland, Mammary tumor


With advances in screening, the incidence of detection of premalignant breast lesions has increased in recent decades; however, treatment options remain limited to surveillance or surgical removal by lumpectomy or mastectomy. We hypothesized that disease progression could be blocked by RNA interference (RNAi) therapy and set out to develop a targeted therapeutic delivery strategy. Using computational gene network modeling, we identified HoxA1 as a putative driver of early mammary cancer progression in transgenic C3(1)-SV40TAg mice. Silencing this gene in cultured mouse or human mammary tumor spheroids resulted in increased acinar lumen formation, reduced tumor cell proliferation, and restoration of normal epithelial polarization. When the HoxA1 gene was silenced in vivo via intraductal delivery of nanoparticle-formulated small interfering RNA (siRNA) through the nipple of transgenic mice with early-stage disease, mammary epithelial cell proliferation rates were suppressed, loss of estrogen and progesterone receptor expression was prevented, and tumor incidence was reduced by 75%. This approach that leverages new advances in systems biology and nanotechnology offers a novel noninvasive strategy to block breast cancer progression through targeted silencing of critical genes directly within the mammary epithelium.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, RNA, RNA interference, Breast, Mammary gland