Transplantation studies have demonstrated the existence of mammary progenitor cells with the ability to self-renew and regenerate a functional mammary gland. Although these progenitors are the likely targets for oncogenic transformation, correlating progenitor populations with certain oncogenic stimuli has been difficult. Cyclin D1 is required for lobuloalveolar development during pregnancy and lactation as well as MMTV-ErbB2- but not MMTV-Wnt1-mediated tumorigenesis. Using a kinase-deficient cyclin D1 mouse, we identified two functional mammary progenitor cell populations, one of which is the target of MMTV-ErbB2. Moreover, cyclin D1 activity is required for the self-renewal and differentiation of mammary progenitors because its abrogation leads to a failure to maintain the mammary epithelial regenerative potential and also results in defects in luminal lineage differentiation.
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