The Mammary Gland Vasculature Revisited
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Concomitant with the extensive growth and differentiation of the mammary epithelium during pregnancy and lactation, and epithelial involution after weaning, the vasculature of the mammary gland undergoes repeated cycles of expansion and regression. Vascular expansion is effected by sprouting angiogenesis, intussusception and conceivably also vasculogenesis. The capacity of the epithelial cells to stimulate vascular growth and differentiation is dependent on the constellation of systemic and local hormones and growth factors as well as the changing demands for oxygenation and nutrient supply. This results in the release of angiogenic factors which stimulate endothelial cell growth and regulate vascular architecture. In contrast to the angiogenic phase of the mammary gland cycle, little is known about the control of vascular regression although this would possibly offer new insights into therapeutic possibilities against breast cancer. In this review we summarize knowledge regarding the mechanisms regulating the vasculature of the mammary gland and delineate the importance of the vasculature in the attainment of organ function. In addition, we discuss the angiogenic mechanisms observed during mammary carcinogenesis and their consequences for breast cancer therapy.
KeywordsBreast carcinogenesis Eph-ephrin Estrogen Intussusceptive angiogenesis Prolactin Vasculogenesis VEGF
vascular endothelial growth factor
hexamethylene bisacetamid-inducible protein
cell adhesion molecule
mouse mammary tumor virus
chemokine (C-C motif) ligand
The authors wish to thank Robert Strange for helpful discussions and critical reading of the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflict of interest.
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