In contrast to the cytotoxic or cytostatic effect of TNFalpha on many breast cancer cell lines, TNFalpha stimulates growth and morphogenesis of normal rat mammary epithelial cells (MEC). The present studies were carried out to determine whether there are intrinsic differences between normal and malignant MEC which may explain the differing responsiveness to TNFalpha. Freshly isolated rat MEC organoids from normal mammary gland or 1-methyl-1-nitrosourea-induced mammary tumors were treated with TNFalpha for 21 days. Unexpectedly, TNFalpha stimulated growth and morphogenesis of both normal and transformed MEC in primary culture, although in transformed cells its effects were delayed and the majority of the colonies were histologically abnormal, with multiple cell layers and no lumen. Since NFkappaB is a key mediator of TNFalpha action and has been implicated in carcinogenesis, the expression of the p50, p52, p65, and c-rel NFkappaB proteins in normal and transformed MEC was determined. Expression of p52 was significantly reduced in tumor cells, and p50 was absent, although its putative precursor, p105 was abundant. There were no changes in the levels of p65 or c-rel. TNFalpha induced a pronounced and sustained increase of a p50 homodimeric NFkappaB/DNA complex in both normal and transformed MEC. However, in transformed MEC, NFkappaB binding was initially undetectable but then increased in response to TNFalpha. Thus, NFkappaB expression and DNA binding activity are altered during mammary carcinogenesis. In addition, the significant increase in NFkappaB/p50 DNA-binding was temporally coincident with TNFalpha-induced growth and morphogenesis, suggesting that it may play a significant role in both normal development and carcinogenesis.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.