Uncovering mutation-specific morphogenic phenotypes and paracrine-mediated vessel dysfunction in a biomimetic vascularized mammary duct platform

Nat Commun. 2020 Jul 6;11(1):3377. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-17102-x.


The mammary gland is a highly vascularized tissue capable of expansion and regression during development and disease. To enable mechanistic insight into the coordinated morphogenic crosstalk between the epithelium and vasculature, we introduce a 3D microfluidic platform that juxtaposes a human mammary duct in proximity to a perfused endothelial vessel. Both compartments recapitulate stable architectural features of native tissue and the ability to undergo distinct forms of branching morphogenesis. Modeling HER2/ERBB2 amplification or activating PIK3CA(H1047R) mutation each produces ductal changes observed in invasive progression, yet with striking morphogenic and behavioral differences. Interestingly, PI3KαH1047R ducts also elicit increased permeability and structural disorganization of the endothelium, and we identify the distinct secretion of IL-6 as the paracrine cause of PI3KαH1047R-associated vascular dysfunction. These results demonstrate the functionality of a model system that facilitates the dissection of 3D morphogenic behaviors and bidirectional signaling between mammary epithelium and endothelium during homeostasis and pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomimetics / methods
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / growth & development
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Human / blood supply
  • Mammary Glands, Human / growth & development
  • Mammary Glands, Human / metabolism*
  • Morphogenesis / genetics*
  • Mutation*
  • Paracrine Communication / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism


  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2