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Research Article

Involution of the lactating mammary gland is inhibited by the IGF system in a transgenic mouse model.

S Neuenschwander, A Schwartz, T L Wood, C T Roberts, Jr, L Hennighausen and D LeRoith

Diabetes Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Published May 15, 1996

Development of the mammary gland during puberty, pregnancy, and lactation is controlled by steroid and peptide hormones and growth factors. To determine the role of the insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) in this process we developed a transgenic model using the whey acidic protein (WAP) gene to direct expression of rat IGF-I and human IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) to mammary tissue during late pregnancy and throughout lactation. High levels of expression of transgenic IGF-I and IGFBP-3 were seen in lobular-alveolar cells by in situ hybridization. There was no obvious effect on mammary development during pregnancy and lactation; indeed, mothers were capable of nursing their pups normally and the only structural difference seen in the mammary glands at peak lactation was an overall smaller size of the alveoli. We also evaluated the role of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 in the remodeling of mammary tissue during involution. Compared with control animals, the process of involution was modified in both transgenic lines. The degree of apoptotic cells was lower in the WAP-IGF-I and WAP-BP-3 expressing mice. In addition, there was a more quiescent pattern of involution with residual lobular secretary ability and a muted host inflammatory reaction with fewer lumenal microcalcifications. These results demonstrate that IGF-I and IGFBP-3 may modulate the involutionary process of the lactating mammary gland.