Cripto: roles in mammary cell growth, survival, differentiation and transformation


Cripto-1 (Cr-1) protein, encoded by the teratocarcinoma-derived growth factor gene (TDGF-1), is highly correlated with transformation in breast cancer. Eighty-two percent of breast carcinomas express Cr-1 whereas it is undetected in normal human breast tissue. We confirmed and extended findings that Cr-1 protein is expressed during the pregnancy and lactating stages of normal murine mammary glands but is barely detectable in glands from virgin animals and is undetectable in involuted glands. Cr-1 was found to be expressed in CID 9 cells, a line of mammary epithelial cells derived from 14.5 day pregnant mice and we have used these cells to investigate the roles of this gene. Exogenous mouse Cr-1 expression from a retroviral vector caused CID 9 cells to grow at an increased rate and to increased cell densities compared to parental and control cells. CID 9 cells overexpressing Cr-1 did not differentiate efficiently. Infection of CID 9 cells with a Cr-1 antisense vector caused these cells to change in morphology, to grow slowly, to undergo apoptosis at a higher rate and to achieve lower saturation densities but the cells were still capable of differentiating. We concluded that Cr-1 is an autocrine growth factor for normal breast cells, that when over-expressed stimulates excessive cell proliferation at the expense of differentiation. In transplantation studies, Cr-1 over-expression stimulated the growth and survival of mammary cells, but did not stimulate tumorigenesis in vivo.

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Correspondence to Eileen D Adamson.

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Edited by D. Green

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Niemeyer, C., Persico, M. & Adamson, E. Cripto: roles in mammary cell growth, survival, differentiation and transformation. Cell Death Differ 5, 440–449 (1998).

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  • retroviruses
  • overexpression
  • antisense
  • milk proteins
  • apoptosis
  • anchorage independent growth
  • tumorigenicity

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