Prior studies have demonstrated that the calcium pump, plasma membrane calcium ATPase 2 (PMCA2), mediates calcium transport into milk and prevents mammary epithelial cell death during lactation. PMCA2 also regulates cell proliferation and cell death in breast cancer cells, in part by maintaining the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB2/HER2 within specialized plasma membrane domains. Furthermore, the regulation of PMCA2 membrane localization and activity in breast cancer cells requires its interaction with the PDZ domain-containing scaffolding molecule sodium-hydrogen exchanger regulatory factor (NHERF) 1. In this study, we asked whether NHERF1 also interacts with PMCA2 in normal mammary epithelial cells during lactation. Our results demonstrate that NHERF1 expression is upregulated during lactation and that it interacts with PMCA2 at the apical membrane of secretory luminal epithelial cells. Similar to PMCA2, NHERF1 expression is rapidly reduced by milk stasis after weaning. Examining lactating NHERF1 knockout (KO) mice showed that NHERF1 contributes to the proper apical location of PMCA2, for proper apical-basal polarity in luminal epithelial cells, and that it participates in the suppression of Stat3 activation and the prevention of premature mammary gland involution. Additionally, we found that PMCA2 also interacts with the closely related scaffolding molecule, NHERF2, at the apical membrane, which likely maintains PMCA2 at the plasma membrane of mammary epithelial cells in lactating NHERF1KO mice. Based on these data, we conclude that, during lactation, NHERF1 is required for the proper expression and apical localization of PMCA2, which, in turn, contributes to preventing the premature activation of Stat3 and the lysosome-mediated cell death pathway that usually occur only early in mammary involution.
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