The COP and WKY rat strains are resistant to mammary cancer. It has shown previously that upon chemical carcinogen treatment, COP females exhibit mammary preneoplastic lesions which disappear within a few weeks. We show here that in similar conditions, WKY females do not exhibit any visible preneoplastic lesions. WKY females are characterized by precocious mammary tissue differentiation, including active expression of the beta-casein gene in young virgin females. This trait might be critical in resistance to mammary carcinogenesis of WKY rats. To test this hypothesis, we took advantage of 2 congenic strains that contain a limited chromosome segment of WKY origin, derived either from chromosome 5 or from chromosome 18, introgressed in the susceptible genetic background (SPRD-Cu3). Each of these congenic strains has been shown to be partially resistant to chemically induced mammary carcinogenesis (reduction in tumour multiplicity with respect to the susceptible SPRD-Cu3 rats). We show here that these 2 congenic strains also exhibit precocious mammary differentiation, though to a lower extent than the WKY females. The conclusion of this study is thus 2-fold: (i) eradication of preneoplastic lesions is not a general phenomenon in mammary cancer resistance; (ii) the same segment of rat chromosomes 5 or 18 that controls mammary cancer resistance also contains a quantitative trait locus imposing precocious mammary differentiation. These 2 traits are thus associated, supporting the hypothesis that there might be a cause-effect relationship between precocious mammary differentiation and cancer resistance.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.