, Volume 268, Issue 1, pp 167-177

Changes in the extracellular matrix of the normal human breast during the menstrual cycle

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The normal human mammary gland undergoes a well defined sequence of histological changes in both epithelial and stromal compartments during the menstrual cycle. Studies in vitro have suggested that the extracellular matrix surrounding the individual cells plays a central role in modulating a wide variety of cellular events, including proliferation, differentiation and gene expression. We therefore investigated the distribution of a number of extracellular matrix molecules in the normal breast during the menstrual cycle. By use of indirect immunofluorescence, with specific antibodies, we demonstrated that laminin, heparan sulphate proteoglycan, type IV collagen, type V collagen, chondroitin sulphate and fibronectin undergo changes in distribution during the menstrual cycle, whereas collagen types I, III, VI and VII remain unchanged. These changes were most marked in the basement membrane, sub-basement membrane zone and delimiting layer of fibroblasts surrounding the ductules where basement membrane markers such as laminin, heparan sulphate proteoglycan, and type IV and V collagens appear greatly reduced during the mid-cycle period (days 8 to 22). These results suggest that some extracellular matrix molecules may act as medittors in the hormonal control of the mammary gland, whereas others may have a predominantly structural role.