Breast carcinomas are known to express platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), a known connective tissue mitogen. In order to further evaluate the potential role of PDGF in these epithelial tumors, expression of the PDGF B chain (PDGF-B) and the PDGF receptor β subunit (PDGFR) was analyzed by immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization in 49 benign and malignant breast tissues. PDGF-B expression was analyzed with respect to the expression of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen, as well as tumor grade, p53 overexpression, estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and c-erbB-2 expression.

Expression of PDGF-B protein and mRNA was restricted to the breast epithelium and tumor cells except for scattered tissue macrophages. A strong correlation was found between increasing proliferating cell nuclear antigen indices and PDGF-B expression in both nonmalignant (P = 0.01) and malignant (P = 0.02) breast specimens. Decreased PDGF-B expression was found in postmenopausal atrophic breast tissue compared with normal breast tissue (P = 0.04). Within the subgroup of malignant tumors, no correlations were found between PDGF-B expression and tumor grade or p53 overexpression. In 16 of the malignant tumors evaluated for estrogen/progesterone receptor status and c-erbB-2 overexpression, no correlations with PDGF-B expression were found. Membranous PDGFR immunostaining was present within the fibroblastic cell population in all of the tissues examined but not in the nonmalignant breast epithelium. Six malignant specimens had detectable cytoplasmic expression of PDGFR. There was no correlation between this PDGFR expression and proliferating cell nuclear antigen indices, but a correlation was noted between increasing estrogen receptor expression and PDGFR cytoplasmic expression (P = 0.04). The results support a paracrine role for PDGF-B in malignant and benign breast epithelial cell proliferation.

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Supported by NIH Grants CA-36250 (A. M. G., M. D. C.) and DC-00035 (M. D. C.).

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