Progesterone stimulates progenitor cells in normal human breast and breast cancer cells
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The epithelium of the human breast is made up of a branching ductal–lobular system, which is lined by a single layer of luminal cells surrounded by a contractile basal cell layer. The co-ordinated development of stem/progenitor cells into these luminal and basal cells is fundamentally important for breast morphogenesis. The ovarian steroid hormones, progesterone (P) and 17β-estradiol, are critical in driving this normal breast development, yet ovarian activity has also been shown to be a major driver of breast cancer risk. We previously demonstrated that P treatment increases proliferation and augments the number of progenitor-like cells, and that the progesterone receptor (PR) is also expressed in the bipotent progenitor-enriched subfraction. Here we demonstrate that PR is expressed in a subset of CD10+ basal cells and that P stimulates this CD10+ cell compartment, which is enriched for bipotent progenitor activity. In addition, we have shown that P stimulates progenitor cells in human breast cancer cell lines and expands the cancer stem cell population via increasing the stem-like CD44+ population. As changes in cell type composition are one of the hallmark features of breast cancer progression, the demonstration that progenitor cells are stimulated by P in both normal breast and in breast cancer cells has critical implications in discerning the mechanisms of how P increases breast cancer risk.
KeywordsProgesterone Progenitor Breast cancer Cell lineage
Colony forming cell
Cancer stem cell
Fluorescence-activated cell sorter
Hormone replacement therapy
Mammary epithelial cell
We wish to thank Arno Therapeutics, Inc. for generously donating the onapristone. We wish to thank Dr Xin Maggie Wang for assistance with flow cytometry, performed in the Flow Cytometry Centre at Westmead Millennium Institute which is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) and Cancer Institute New South Wales. This study was supported by an NHMRC project grant (1011496), Cure Cancer Australia Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge the advice and assistance of Dr. Karen Byth, Westmead Millennium Institute, with statistical analysis.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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