Roles of the Innate Immune System in Mammary Gland Remodeling During Involution

  • Kamran Atabai
  • Dean Sheppard
  • Zena Werb


Mammary gland involution is a period of intensive tissue remodeling. Over the course of a relatively brief period, a large proportion of the mammary gland epithelium undergoes programmed cell death and is removed by phagocytes. In addition, the gland is cleared of residual milk fat globules as well as milk and adipocytes become the predominant cell type. The role of the immune system in this process has not been clearly defined. Professional phagocytes derived from the immune system can participate in the clearance of apoptotic and autophagic cells, the removal of residual milk components, and the prevention of mastitis during mammary gland involution. However, many of these functions can also be performed by non-professional phagocytes (e.g. mammary epithelial cells). This review will discuss the evidence that supports a role for innate immune cells in mammary gland remodeling during involution.


Involution Mammary gland Phagocytosis Innate immunity Remodeling 



mammary epithelial cells


programmed cell death



The authors were supported by funds HL64353, HL56385, and HL53949 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (D.S.), CA57621 from the National Cancer Institute and ES12801 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute (Z.W.), and a National Institutes of Health fellowship 1F32 HL073530-01 (K.A.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lung Biology Center, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Department of MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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