Journal Article

Hormone-induced refractoriness to mammary carcinogenesis in Wistar-Furth rats.

L Sivaraman, L C Stephens, B M Markaverich, J A Clark, S Krnacik, O M Conneely, B W O'Malley and D Medina

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 19, issue 9, pages 1573-1581
Published in print January 1998 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online January 1998 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Hormone-induced refractoriness to mammary carcinogenesis in Wistar-Furth rats.

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One of the most consistent results in the epidemiology of human breast cancer is the inverse relationship of risk and early full-term parity. The goal of this study was to investigate the molecular mechanisms through which early full-term pregnancy protects the breast from cancer development. We used Wistar-Furth (WF) rats as our experimental system and mimicked pregnancy using estrogen and progesterone (E/P). Sexually mature female rats were treated with steroid hormones for 21 days and after 28 days of gland involution, the rats were administered MNU. Rats that received a high dose of 20 microg E and 20 mg P exhibited an 82% reduction in the incidence of mammary adenocarcinomas as compared to the rats receiving only blank pellets. Decreasing doses of E/P were partially protective suggesting that complete differentiation of the gland was not required for refractoriness. We measured the RNA expression levels of several target genes involved in the regulation of mammary cell proliferation and/or differentiation including estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR), cyclins D1 and D2, the cell cycle inhibitors p16, p21 and p27, and the tumor suppressor p53. At the time of MNU treatment we found no significant differences in the expression of these genes, with the possible exception of p21, indicating that hormone treatment did not result in constitutive changes in expression levels. The numbers of apoptotic cells were low and comparable in the hormone exposed and age-matched virgin gland (AMV) at the time of carcinogen challenge and remained low for 8 days after MNU treatment. The number of BrdU-labeled cells at the time of carcinogen challenge were also low in both the AMV (1.8%) and hormone exposed (0.8%) animals. In contrast, cell proliferation in the AMV (5.7%) was significantly different from both the parous involuted (1.2%) and the E/P-treated involuted (1.5%) animals 8 days after MNU treatment. We interpret these data to indicate that hormone treatment results in mammary epithelial cells that have persistent alterations in intracellular pathways governing proliferation responses to carcinogens.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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