Regulation of mouse mammary gland development and tumorigenesis by the ERBB signaling network

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2001 Jan;6(1):7-21. doi: 10.1023/a:1009560330359.


The four ERBB receptors and their multiple polypeptide ligands are differentially expressed during development of the mouse mammary gland. Profiles suggest that ERBB1/EGF receptor (EGFR)4 and ERBB2/Neu are required during ductal morphogenesis, whereas the Neuregulin (NRG) receptors, ERBB3 and ERBB4, are preferentially expressed through alveolar morphogenesis and lactation. Consistent with these profiles, recent gene knockouts established that EGFR and its ligand, Amphiregulin (AR), are essential for ductal morphogenesis in the adolescent mouse and likely provide the required epithelial-stromal signal. In contrast, the phenotypes of transgenic mice expressing dominant negative ERBB2 and ERBB4 proteins suggest that these receptors differentially act to promote or maintain alveolar differentiation. This view of ERBB action provides a conceptual framework for future testing using more sophisticated conditional knockout models. New or existing transgenic mice are also being used to better understand the contributions of ERBB receptors and ligands to mammary tumorigenesis, as well as to more closely mimic the human disease. Recent studies have focused on defining molecular events in neoplastic progression, and in the case of ERBB2/Neu, the requirement for ERBB heterodimerization partners as well as the relative importance of gene amplification versus gene mutation. Collectively, these recent studies establish that normal development and homeostasis of the mammary gland is critically dependent on regulated ERBB signaling. They also illustrate the value of animal models in deciphering roles for the complex ERBB network in this dynamic tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2