Development of the mammary gland requires both proper hormone signaling and cross talk between the stroma and epithelium. While estrogen receptor (ERα) expression in the epithelium is essential for normal gland development, the role of this receptor in the stroma is less clear. Moreover, several lines of evidence suggest that mouse phenotypes of in utero exposure to endocrine disruption act through mesenchymal ERα in the developing fetus. We utilized a Twist2-cre mouse line to knock out mesenchymal ERα. Herein, we assessed mammary gland development in the context of mesenchymal ERα deletion. We also tested the effect of in utero bisphenol A (BPA) exposure to alter the tumor susceptibility in the mouse mammary tumor virus-neu (MMTV-neu) breast cancer mouse model. Mesenchymal ERα deletion resulted in altered reproductive tract development and atypical cytology associated with estrous cycling. The mammary gland demonstrated mature epithelial extension unlike complete ERα-knockout mice, but ductal extension was delayed and reduced compared to ERα-competent mice. Using the MMTV-Neu cancer susceptibility model, ERα-intact mice exposed to BPA had reduced tumor-free survival and overall survival compared to BPA-exposed mice having mesenchymal ERα deletion. This difference is specific for BPA exposure as vehicle-treated animals had no difference in tumor development between mice expressing and not expressing mesenchymal ERα. These data demonstrate that mesenchymal ERα expression is not required for ductal extension, nor does it influence cancer risk in this mouse model but does influence the cancer incidence associated with in utero BPA exposure.
Keywords: MMTV-Neu; endocrine disruptors; estrogen receptor; mammary gland.