Here, we show that functional loss of a single gene is sufficient to confer constitutive milk protein production and protection against mammary tumor formation. Caveolin-3 (Cav-3), a muscle-specific caveolin-related gene, is highly expressed in muscle cells. We demonstrate that Cav-3 is also expressed in myoepithelial cells within the mammary gland. To determine whether genetic ablation of Cav-3 expression affects adult mammary gland development, we studied the phenotype(s) of Cav-3-/--null mice. Interestingly, Cav-3 -/- virgin mammary glands developed lobuloalveolar hyperplasia, akin to the changes normally observed during pregnancy and lactation. Genome-wide expression profiling revealed up-regulation of gene transcripts associated with pregnancy/lactation, mammary stem cells, and human breast cancers, consistent with a constitutive lactogenic phenotype. Expression levels of three key transcriptional regulators of lactation, namely Elf5, Stat5a, and c-Myc, were also significantly elevated. Experiments with pregnant mice directly showed that Cav-3-/- mice underwent precocious lactation. Finally, using orthotopic tumor cell implantation, we demonstrated that virgin Cav-3 -/- mice were dramatically protected against mammary tumor formation. Thus, Cav-3-/- mice are a novel preclinical model to study the protective effects of a lactogenic microenvironment on mammary tumor onset and progression. Our current studies have broad implications for using the lactogenic microenvironment as a paradigm to discover new therapies for the prevention and/or treatment of human breast cancers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine