Transforming Growth Factor-β (TGF-β) signaling in cancer has been termed the “TGF-β paradox”, acting as both a tumor suppresser and promoter. The complexity of TGF-β signaling within the tumor is context dependent, and greatly impacted by cellular crosstalk between TGF-β responsive cells in the microenvironment including adjacent epithelial, endothelial, mesenchymal, and hematopoietic cells. Here we utilize normal, weaning-induced mammary gland involution as a tissue microenvironment model to study the complexity of TGF-β function. This article reviews facets of mammary gland involution that are TGF-β regulated, namely mammary epithelial cell death, immune activation, and extracellular matrix remodeling. We outline how distinct cellular responses and crosstalk between cell types during physiologically normal mammary gland involution contribute to simultaneous tumor suppressive and promotional microenvironments. We also highlight alternatives to direct TGF-β blocking anti-cancer therapies with an emphasis on eliciting concerted microenvironmental-mediated tumor suppression.
- Cellular crosstalk
- Weaning-induced mammary gland involution
ASJC Scopus subject areas