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Keywords:

  • Cancer stem cells;
  • Intravital microscopy;
  • Breast cancer;
  • Molecular imaging;
  • MMTV-Wnt1;
  • Mammary stem cells

Abstract

Poorly regulated tissue remodeling results in increased breast cancer risk, yet how breast cancer stem cells (CSC) participate in remodeling is unknown. We performed in vivo imaging of changes in fluorescent, endogenous duct architecture as a metric for remodeling. First, we quantitatively imaged physiologic remodeling of primary branches of the developing and regenerating mammary tree. To assess CSC-specific remodeling events, we isolated CSC from MMTV-Wnt1 (mouse mammary tumor virus long-term repeat enhancer driving Wnt1 oncogene) breast tumors, a well studied model in which tissue remodeling affects tumorigenesis. We confirm that CSC drive tumorigenesis, suggesting a link between CSC and remodeling. We find that normal, regenerating, and developing gland maintain a specific branching pattern. In contrast, transplantation of CSC results in changes in the branching patterns of endogenous ducts while non-CSC do not. Specifically, in the presence of CSC, we identified an increased number of branches, branch points, ducts which have greater than 40 branches (5/33 for CSC and 0/39 for non-CSC), and histological evidence of increased branching. Moreover, we demonstrate that only CSC implants invade into surrounding stroma with structures similar to developing mammary ducts (nine for CSC and one for non-CSC). Overall, we demonstrate a novel approach for imaging physiologic and pathological remodeling. Furthermore, we identify unique, CSC-specific, remodeling events. Our data suggest that CSC interact with the microenvironment differently than non-CSC, and that this could eventually be a therapeutic approach for targeting CSC. STEM Cells2012;30:2114–2127