Insulin like growth factor–1 (IGF-1) stimulates increased proliferation and survival of mammary epithelial cells and also promotes mammary tumorigenesis. To study the effects of IGF-1 on the mammary gland in vivo, we used BK5.IGF-1 transgenic (Tg) mice. In these mice, IGF-1 overexpression is controlled by the bovine keratin 5 promoter and recapitulates the paracrine exposure of breast epithelium to stromal IGF-1 that is seen in women. Studies have shown that BK5.IGF-1 Tg mice are more susceptible to mammary tumorigenesis than wild-type littermates. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying increased mammary cancer risk, reported here, revealed that IGF-1 preferentially activated the PI3K/Akt pathway in glands from prepubertal Tg mice, resulting in increased cyclin D1 expression and hyperplasia. However, in glands from postpubertal Tg mice, a pathway switch occurred and activation of the Ras/Raf/MAPK pathway predominated, without increased cyclin D1 expression or proliferation. We further showed that in prepubertal Tg glands, signaling was mediated by formation of an ERα/IRS-1 complex, which activated IRS-1 and directed signaling via the PI3K/Akt pathway. Conversely, in postpubertal Tg glands, reduced ERα expression failed to stimulate formation of the ERα/IRS-1 complex, allowing signaling to proceed via the alternate Ras/Raf/MAPK pathway. These in vivo data demonstrate that changes in ERα expression at different stages of development direct IGF-1 signaling and the resulting tissue responses. As ERα levels are elevated during the prepubertal and postmenopausal stages, these may represent windows of susceptibility during which increased IGF-1 exposure maximally enhances breast cancer risk.
Jie Tian, Thomas R. Berton, Stephanie H. Shirley, Isabel Lambertz, Irma B. Gimenez-Conti, John DiGiovanni, Kenneth S. Korach, Claudio J. Conti, Robin Fuchs-Young