, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 17-38

Establishing a Framework for the Functional Mammary Gland: From Endocrinology to Morphology

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From its embryonic origins, the mammary gland in females undergoes a course of ductal development that supports the establishment of alveolar structures during pregnancy prior to the onset of lactogenesis. This development includes multiple stages of proliferation and morphogenesis that are largely directed by concurrent alterations in key hormones and growth factors across various reproductive states. Ductal elongation is directed by estrogen, growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I, and epidermal growth factor, whereas ductal branching and alveolar budding is influenced by additional factors such as progesterone, prolactin, and thyroid hormone. The response by the ductal epithelium to various hormones and growth factors is influenced by epithelial–stromal interactions that differ between species, possibly directing species-specific morphogenesis. Evolving technologies continue to provide the opportunity to further delineate the regulation of ductal development. Defining the hormonal control of ductal development should facilitate a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying mammary gland tumorigenesis.