Endocrine hormones and local signals during the development of the mouse mammary gland
Most of mammary gland development occurs postnatally under the control of female reproductive hormones, which in turn interact with other endocrine factors. While hormones impinge on many tissues and trigger very complex biological responses, tissue recombination experiments with hormone receptor-deficient mammary epithelia revealed eminent roles for estrogens, progesterone, and prolactin receptor (PrlR) signaling that are intrinsic to the mammary epithelium. A subset of the luminal mammary epithelial cells expresses the estrogen receptor α (ERα), the progesterone receptor (PR), and the PrlR and act as sensor cells. These cells convert the detected systemic signals into local signals that are developmental stage-dependent and may be direct, juxtacrine, or paracrine. This setup ensures that the original input is amplified and that the biological responses of multiple cell types can be coordinated. Some key mediators of hormone action have been identified such as Wnt, EGFR, IGFR, and RANK signaling. Multiple signaling pathways such as FGF, Hedgehog, and Notch signaling participate in driving different aspects of mammary gland development locally but how they link to the hormonal control remains to be elucidated. An increasing number of endocrine factors are appearing to have a role in mammary gland development, the adipose tissue is increasingly recognized to play a role in endocrine regulation, and a complex role of the immune system with multiple different cell types is being revealed. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website. Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.