Involution: apoptosis and tissue remodelling that convert the mammary gland from milk factory to a quiescent organ

Breast Cancer Res. 2006;8(2):203. doi: 10.1186/bcr1401. Epub 2006 Apr 10.


Involution of the mammary gland is an essential process that removes the milk-producing epithelial cells when they become redundant at weaning. It is a two-step process that involves the death of the secretory epithelium and its replacement by adipocytes. During the first phase, remodelling is inhibited and apoptotic cells can be seen in the lumena of the alveoli. In the second phase, apoptosis is accompanied by remodelling of the surrounding stroma and re-differentiation of the adipocytes. Considerable effort has been directed towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of the involution process and this has resulted in the identification of the principal signalling pathways involved.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Breast / anatomy & histology
  • Breast / cytology*
  • Breast / physiology*
  • Cell Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*