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Transcriptional Regulation of Normal Human Mammary Cell Heterogeneity and its Perturbation in Breast Cancer

By January 31, 2019No Comments

The mammary gland in adult women consists of biologically distinct cell types that differ in their surface phenotypes. Isolation and molecular characterization of these subpopulations of mammary cells have provided extensive insights into their different transcriptional programs and regulation. This information is now serving as a baseline for interpreting the heterogeneous features of human breast cancers. Examination of breast cancer mutational profiles further indicates that most have undergone a complex evolutionary process even before being detected. The consequent intra‐tumoral as well as inter‐tumoral heterogeneity of these cancers thus poses major challenges to deriving information from early and hence likely pervasive changes in potential therapeutic interest. Recently described reproducible and efficient methods for generating human breast cancers de novo in immunodeficient mice transplanted with genetically altered primary cells now offer a promising alternative to investigate initial stages of human breast cancer development. In this review, we summarize current knowledge about key transcriptional regulatory processes operative in these partially characterized subpopulations of normal human mammary cells and effects of disrupting these processes in experimentally produced human breast cancers.