In this study, aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1)-expressing cells in stroma of histologically normal breast tissue from premenopausal women were investigated in situ regarding cellular morphology, cell distribution, and relation to the additional stem cell markers, CD44 (+) and CD24 (-). These results were correlated with hormonal and genetic risk factors for breast cancer. Triple immunofluorescence labeling was performed on tissues from premenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer, and breast reduction specimens from premenopausal women with no family history of breast cancer were used as a control group. The majority of ALDH1-immunoreactive cells in stroma were spindle-shaped or polygonal, and such cells that were CD44(-) and CD24(-) were absent in the breast stroma of a significantly larger number of nulliparous than parous women. A less common morphological type of ALDH1-positive cells in stroma was round or oval in shape, and such cells that were CD44(+) and CD24(-) were absent in a significant number of women with a family history of breast cancer. The CD44(+)/CD24(-) immunophenotype is consistent with stem cells, and the round/oval morphology suggests mesenchymal cells. This study demonstrates that there are two morphologically distinct types of ALDH1-positive cells in histologically benign mammary stroma, and the absence of these cells is correlated with clinical risk factors for breast cancer in premenopausal women.
Keywords: BRCA1 gene; human; immunohistochemistry; mammary glands; neoplasms; stem cells.