The mammary gland is an excellent model system to study the interplay between stroma and epithelial cells because of the gland's unique postnatal development and its distinct functional states. This review focuses on the contribution of the extracellular matrix (ECM) to stromal-epithelial interactions in the mammary gland. We describe how ECM physical properties, protein composition, and proteolytic state impact mammary gland architecture as well as provide instructive cues that influence the function of mammary epithelial cells during pubertal gland development and throughout adulthood. Further, based on recent proteomic analyses of mammary ECM, we describe known mammary ECM proteins and their potential functions, as well as describe several ECM proteins not previously recognized in this organ. ECM proteins are discussed in the context of the morphologically-distinct stromal subcompartments: the basal lamina, the intra- and interlobular stroma, and the fibrous connective tissue. Future studies aimed at in-depth qualitative and quantitative characterization of mammary ECM within these various subcompartments is required to better elucidate the function of ECM in normal as well as in pathological breast tissue.
- Basal lamina
- Extracellular matrix
- Stromal-epithelial interactions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research