Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) I and II are potent mitogens for breast cancer cells. Their proliferative activity is likely to be influenced by their binding proteins (IGFBPs), a family of newly identified proteins. We report here on the in vivo hormonal regulation of mRNAs for IGF-II and IGFBPs in the N-nitrosomethylurea-induced rat mammary tumor, a well-established model of hormone-responsive mammary cancer. IGF-II mRNA levels tended to decrease in regressing tumors following ovariectomy, and they markedly increased upon reactivation of tumor growth with hormone repletion. Ovariectomy induced a drastic increase in IG-FBP-6 mRNA which was reversible with hormone repletion. Similar but more modest changes were observed with IGFBP-2 mRNA. In contrast, IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-4 mRNAs tended to decrease with ovariectomy and increase with hormone repletion. These latter effects, however, were modest, variable, and not statistically significant. In situ hybridization analysis revealed that IGF-II, IGFBP-5, and IGFBP-6 mRNAs were localized in the stromal component of the tumor, whereas IGFBP-2 mRNA was expressed by epithelial cells. We conclude that hormonal regulation of IGFBP expression is heterogeneous, thus suggesting divergent biological functions for these peptides. Our data also emphasize the importance of potential stromal-epithelial interactions in the control of breast cancer cell proliferation by IGFs.


This work is supported by NIH Grant P01CA40011.

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