Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with ovarian hormones is an important therapeutic modality for postmenopausal women. However, a negative side effect of HRT is an increased risk of breast cancer. Surgical induction of menopause by ovariectomy (OVX) in mice is an experimental model that may provide insights into the effects of hormone replacement therapy on the human breast. We have developed a mouse model of early and late postmenopausal states to investigate the effects of HRT on the normal mammary gland. The purpose of this study was to determine if HRT-induced proliferation was due to the direct action of the hormones on the mammary gland, or mediated systemically by hormones or growth factors produced elsewhere in the body. Estrogen (E) or E plus the synthetic progestin, R5020, were implanted directly into the mammary glands of early (1 week post OVX) and late (5 week post OVX) postmenopausal mice instead of administration by injection. We report that responses of early and late postmenopausal mice to implanted hormones were the same as those observed previously with systemically administered hormones. Implanted E conferred an enhanced proliferative response in the late postmenopausal gland characterized morphologically by enlarged duct ends. E+R5020 implants induced similar degrees of cell proliferation in both postmenopausal states but the morphological responses differed. Ductal sidebranching was observed in early postmenopausal mice, whereas duct end enlargement was observed in late postmenopausal mice. The differences in morphological response to E+R5020 in 5 week post OVX were associated with an inability of E to induce progesterone receptors (PR) in the late postmenopausal gland. The responses of the late postmenopausal glands to E and E+P were very similar to that observed previously in immature pubertal glands in ovary-intact mice. In pubertal mice, PR cannot be induced by E unless the mammary gland is pre-treated with EGF-containing implants. Similarly, herein pre-treatment of the late postmenopausal mammary gland with EGF-containing implants restored PR induction by E. Thus, EGF may determine the sensitivity of the mammary gland to E and E+P in late postmenopause and at puberty.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.