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Androgen receptor (AR) is commonly expressed in both the epithelium of normal mammary glands and in breast cancers. AR expression in breast cancers is independent of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) status and is frequently associated with overexpression of the ERBB2 oncogene. AR signaling effects on breast cancer progression may depend on ERα and ERBB2 status. Up to 30% of human breast cancers are driven by overactive ERBB2 signaling and it is not clear whether AR expression affects any steps of tumor progression in this cohort of patients. To test this, we generated mammary specific Ar depleted mice (MARKO) by combining the floxed allele of Ar with the MMTV-cre transgene on an MMTV-NeuNT background and compared them to littermate MMTV-NeuNT, Arfl/+ control females. Heterozygous MARKO females displayed reduced levels of AR in mammary glands with mosaic AR expression in ductal epithelium. The loss of AR dramatically accelerated the onset of MMTV-NeuNT tumors in female MARKO mice. In this report we show that accelerated MMTV-NeuNT-dependent tumorigenesis is due specifically to the loss of AR, as hormonal levels, estrogen and progesterone receptors expression, and MMTV-NeuNT expression were similar between MARKO and control groups. MMTV-NeuNT induced tumors in both cohorts displayed distinct loss of AR in addition to ERα, PR, and the pioneer factor FOXA1. Erbb3 mRNA levels were significantly elevated in tumors in comparison to normal mammary glands. Thus the loss of AR in mouse mammary epithelium accelerates malignant transformation rather than the rate of tumorigenesis.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE 8(4): e60455. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060455.

© 2013 Hodgson et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.