Distinct Requirements for Adaptor Proteins NCK1 and NCK2 in Mammary Gland Development

J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2023 Jul 21;28(1):19. doi: 10.1007/s10911-023-09541-1.


The adaptor proteins NCK1 and NCK2 are well-established signalling nodes that regulate diverse biological processes including cell proliferation and actin dynamics in many tissue types. Here we have investigated the distribution and function of Nck1 and Nck2 in the developing mouse mammary gland. Using publicly available single-cell RNA sequencing data, we uncovered distinct expression profiles between the two paralogs. Nck1 showed widespread expression in luminal, basal, stromal and endothelial cells, while Nck2 was restricted to luminal and basal cells, with prominent enrichment in hormone-sensing luminal subtypes. Next, using mice with global knockout of Nck1 or Nck2, we assessed mammary gland development during and after puberty (5, 8 and 12 weeks of age). Mice lacking Nck1 or Nck2 displayed significant defects in ductal outgrowth and branching at 5 weeks compared to controls, and the defects persisted in Nck2 knockout mice at 8 weeks before normalizing at 12 weeks. These defects were accompanied by an increase in epithelial cell proliferation at 5 weeks and a decrease at 8 weeks in both Nck1 and Nck2 knockout mice. We also profiled expression of several key genes associated with mammary gland development at these timepoints and detected temporal changes in transcript levels of hormone receptors as well as effectors of cell proliferation and migration in Nck1 and Nck2 knockout mice, in line with the distinct phenotypes observed at 5 and 8 weeks. Together these studies reveal a requirement for NCK proteins in mammary gland morphogenesis, and suggest that deregulation of Nck expression could drive breast cancer progression and metastasis.

Keywords: Actin cytoskeleton; Branching morphogenesis; Knockout mice; Mammary gland development; NCK.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Gene Expression
  • Mammary Glands, Animal* / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal* / growth & development
  • Mammary Glands, Animal* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout


  • Nck protein
  • Nck2 protein, mouse
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing

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