Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), alone and in synergism with progesterone (P) and prolactin (PRL), is mitogenic for normal mammary epithelium (ME) in vitro. In addition, P can upregulate ME sensitivity to KGF by slowing KGF receptor (KGFR) mRNA turnover in vitro. These hormonal interactions with KGF in vitro raise the possibility that alterations in these interactions can play a role in hormone-dependent mammary tumor growth and progression. The effect of hormones on KGF mitogenesis and the regulation of KGFR expression was examined in pregnancy-dependent (PDT) and ovarian-independent (OIT) mouse mammary tumors. In serum-free, collagen gel cell culture, dose/response (2-20 ng/ml) and time course studies showed that KGF stimulated the proliferation of PDT (not OIT) cells but synergism with P or PRL was not observed. The level of KGFR mRNA in PDT cells was not significantly different from normal ME but in OIT it was reduced more than 90%. P did not affect KGFR mRNA turnover in cultured PDT cells. However, KGFR mRNA was more stable in PDT cells compared to normal ME; after 6 days culture in basal medium, KGFR mRNA levels declined 40% vs. 85% previously shown for normal ME. Determination of KGF mRNA levels in tissues showed that it was lower in PDT compared to normal mammary gland and not detectable in OIT. These data show that in PDT both KGF-stimulated mitogenesis and the regulation of KGFR expression are independent of hormones. OIT has progressed to independence from any KGF influence. Thus, a subset of hormonally regulated pathways related to epithelial/stromal cell interactions can be lost in hormone-dependent mammary tumors during tumor progression.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.